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Defence, Pretence, Offence

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Harry rolled over and blinked up at the ceiling, letting the last of his dreams fade away. It had been a good night, no disturbances for either him or Draco and he smiled even before his mind had time to remind him what today meant. When his thoughts caught up with the rest of his body his smile grew and he glanced over at his still sleeping bedmate.

If it had not been for the fact that he could see, all be it somewhat blurrily, the two rolls of parchment on the table beyond his sleeping soulmate, Harry would have thought yesterday evening had been a dream.

He was now, one hundred percent officially, as declared in the documents at which he was looking, an employee of Hogwarts. Before the final moment dawned when his life as a student ceased and his welcome at the school ended, Harry had become part of the place he loved as a home. If it had not been for the fact that dark forces gathered outside the enchanted walls in the rest of the wizarding world, he would have been content.

He lowered his mental barriers to magic and let himself just feel everything around him. Hogwarts was home and it seeped into his whole consciousness as he let his Hecatemus abilities free reign.

[You think awfully loudly when you're happy, you know,] a rather sleepy mental voice floated into his mind. [Some of us are trying to sleep.]

[Sorry,] Harry replied, but was only able to contain his exuberant delight for a few seconds. [Last night was just so ... wonderful, it was incredible.]

[Well I knew I was good,] Draco drawled in his thoughts, cracking open one eye, [but...]

Harry lent forward and gave his soulmate a swift kiss, which interrupted Draco's train of thought.

"While I enjoy pandering to your ego," he said as he pulled back, "and our little private celebration could be described by both those words, I was referring to earlier in the evening."

Draco pouted at him in the most adorable manner.

"I'm hurt," Draco said and batted his pale eyelashes.

Harry couldn't decide whether to laugh or leap on Draco with all the restraint of a sex crazed dragon. He looked at the clock and slowly a smile crept onto his face; it was still early. His soulmate raised an eyebrow and Harry knew that Draco was aware of exactly where his thoughts were headed.

He could always blame it on his Hecatemus instincts. He wasn't quite as sex crazed as he had been right after they had bonded when his body and mind kept demanding they reaffirm their connection physically, but he could use it as an excuse. And Lucius trying to separate them with Dissaepio Iugum had meant they had both been doing a lot of reaffirming anyway. It was going to take a long time for them to get over that even with protection woven into the rings they both now wore.

There was, however, only one problem with Harry's less than innocent plans; it may have been early, but there was still a lot to do. For example, this morning was not a morning for leaping in the shower and then leaping out again almost before he was wet. For a start he needed to wash his hair and once shampoo had been introduced to his raven black mop it took forever to rinse it out again. Everything else paled in comparison to trying to tame his hair.

"How long do you reckon we could barricade ourselves in the prefects' bathroom before anyone blasted down the door?" he asked as an idea began to form in his mind.

A wicked smile graced Draco's face as he also glanced at the clock.

"Oh, I think we have about an hour," Draco said with an innocent tone, which belied the expression on his face, "as long as we get there before one of the Ravenclaws decides to take a soak with a good book."

"Then how would you like to prove you are more worthy of the terms 'wonderful' and 'incredible' than anything else I may have been talking about?" Harry asked and for good measure ran his fingers over Draco's shoulder and down his soulmate's side.

Draco pouted again and Harry almost gave up on self-control.

"You need me to prove my worth," Draco said in the best impression of insulted that Harry had ever seen, so much so in fact that for a fraction of a second he actually believed he may have said the wrong thing.

At the beginning of their relationship he might have doubted himself for longer, now he adjusted to the game quickly.

"You have to forgive me," he responded and moved closer to Draco, looking down at him through his eyelashes. "I'm just a Gryffindor and I need these things repeating before they make it through my thick skull."

The corner of Draco's mouth twitched just slightly at the display before it was dragged back under iron control.

"Well," Draco said as if considering the whole thing, "I suppose, in the interests of inter-house cooperation, I could be persuaded to show you again."

As he spoke, Draco's hand made its way down Harry's chest where they were pressed close together and then began to descend lower. Then suddenly Draco's touch was gone.

"What?" was about the most sensible question Harry could manage because all the blood was leaving his brain.

"We have a visitor," Draco said and pointed over his shoulder.

Harry looked; there was one of Hogwarts' house elves, looking very unsure and clutching at one of her ears.

"Binky is sorry to be disturbing Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy," the elf all but squeaked, "but she is being asked to deliver a message."

"Thank you, Binky," Draco said, "it's alright. What is the message?"

"Hermione Granger is asking if Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy would be obliging and meet her and Ron Weasley for an early breakfast," Binky said.

"Did she say why?" Draco asked.

The elf shook her head.

"When?"

"In one half of an hour," Binky said.

"Please tell her, yes, we will be there," Draco told the elf.

Binky bobbed a curtsy and vanished. Harry groaned and flopped back on the bed.

"Why am I friends with Hermione again?" he asked.

"Because she likes to be prepared and has saved your arse more times than I care to count," Draco replied. "Come on, up and at it. Sex will have to wait, but we can still use the prefects' bathroom."

Harry groaned again, but even losing the time to get his hands on Draco couldn't dampen his mood for long.

* * *

It was the last breakfast of term, but the Great Hall was mostly empty when Harry and Draco walked in. Since there were no lessons and everyone not staying for the summer just had to catch the train, it appeared most were leaving eating until the last minute. Only Hermione and Ron were waiting for them at the Gryffindor table.

"Morning," Harry greeted as they went to sit down.

"Heya, Harry, Malfoy," Ron said, blinking at them blearily.

"Good morning," Hermione said at the same time and her smile was bright and very much awake.

[How are two such different people in love?] Draco commented. [I see many strained mornings in their future.]

Harry snorted a laugh.

[Pot calling kettle black,] he said.

Draco had to agree, he never would have tagged himself and Harry as a couple before it happened either. That underneath the trappings of upbringing and privilege they were very similar would never have occurred to him.

He mentally shook himself. Clearly Harry's contemplative mood was affecting him as well. He always tried to look to the future, after all his past was filled with so much failure, but his mind seemed to want to look back today. At least it was only over the last year. It had contained some very bad times, but also some of the best of his entire life.

Sometimes he found himself wondering why someone like Harry would have picked him. He knew it was all supposed to be to do with compatibility and sensible things like that, but Harry had still chosen him. This would never have happened if Harry hadn't chased him down the corridor outside the Library all those months ago.

The lion ring on his finger was heavy and solid, a symbol of their love and bond. It could only be removed by his hand or Harry's. Only death could separate them now.

He mentally kicked himself again.

"So," he said, reaching for the tea pot in the middle of the table, "any thoughts on who was chosen to stay over the summer?"

"No surprises from Gryffindor," Hermione said; "it's most of the seventh year and then mostly the DA. I'm more interested to see who Dumbledore picked from the other houses."

Harry nodded and Draco handed him a mug of tea before the discussion really got going.

* * *

The note on the fireplace had instructed them all to wear casual clothes, but Harry still felt strange walking into the Great Hall for an official meeting with the headmaster in jeans and a shirt. Possibly it was the fact that he was never going to be wearing the school uniform again which was bothering him. He was under no illusion as to how little he knew in the scheme of things and hence how much he still had to learn, but technically Harry knew he was no longer a pupil at Hogwarts, at least not in the traditional sense.

It was also odd to be hanging around when everyone else was rushing for the train.

He was still reeling from the fact that this now really was home, at least for as long as he was employed. He couldn't help wondering where in Hogwarts he and Draco would be living once the summer was over. All of those staying were using their habitual places for now, but Gryffindor Tower would belong to the students once they were back. It was all making him feel a little unsettled and completely at home at the same time, which was just a bizarre combination.

As Harry looked around he realised that most of the DA were still there, but there were others as well. At first glance it was hard to tell who was from which house, except for one group; they were quite obvious.

[Slytherins,] Harry said, without needing to glance at his soulmate to know Draco was looking in the same direction he was.

The huddle of students was small compared to the rest of the houses, only five, but Harry found he was glad they were there. Pansy Parkinson seemed to be in charge and beside her was Gregory Goyle. The other three looked like their backup.

[The rest of the school don't like it,] Draco observed.

[Of course they don't,] Harry said; [as far as they're concerned Slytherin is full of Death Eaters. They don't know what we know.]

[I'm not sure we know what we know,] Draco said, although when Harry glanced in his direction there was no indication on Draco's face that he was thinking any such thing.

If there was one thing that Harry envied about Draco it was his soulmate's ability to shield everything he was thinking from those aristocratic features. When Harry had been hiding from everyone during his sixth year it had been easier, but these days he was sure he gave far too much away on his face.

[Do you want to talk to them?] Harry asked.

The situation with the Slytherins was not clear cut. They had given Draco information on who had opened the wards to allow Draco's father to access Hogwarts, but not in a way that showed their clear support. Finding Blaise was the traitor had been an accident more than anything else. That Dumbledore was willing to allow children of probable Death Eaters to remain for the summer classes was either incredibly foolish, or part of a master plan that Harry could not begin to fathom. How the man had ever convinced their Slytherins' parents to let them stay was something Harry really didn't want to think about.

[Yes,] Draco said, [but we'll have to play it carefully.]

The other Slytherins were just like Draco, able to hide anything they were thinking, but Harry lowered his mental barriers just a little; they couldn't hide from him. What he saw was mostly anxiety and confusion in the colours of emotion surrounding the group.

[Some people might find it worrying how good you lot are at masking what you're feeling,] he commented and showed Draco what he was looking at with a small mental snapshot.

[Some people might,] Draco replied, [but I'm sure you've been paying better attention.]

[Of course,] Harry replied, smiling just slightly at the dig. [Do we need to make elaborate preparations or can we just walk over to them?]

For that Draco gave him a look where one pale eyebrow almost reached his hairline. Harry smiled properly now; he always enjoyed Draco's reaction to sarcasm.

[Come on,] Draco decided, but before either of them could move the talking in the room began to stop.

Scanning the rest of the hall Harry realised Professor Dumbledore and several of the other teachers had just walked out in front of the head table. As ever the headmaster's presence garnered everyone's attention. Harry quickly reasserted his shields, slipped his hand into Draco's, and waited to find out what was going to be happening.

"Welcome," Dumbledore said after he reached the lectern, "how gratifying it is to see so many have chosen to stay for the summer classes."

Harry had no idea how many had been invited to take part from the other houses, but all of those from Gryffindor were there. He doubted anyone in their right mind would say no, given that the Ministry was involved.

[Not everyone is cut out for daring deeds,] Draco said.

Harry realised he must have thought the last part at his soulmate.

[But Ravenclaws love to learn everything new, Hufflepuffs will feel it is their duty to take part, Gryffindors are just Gryffindors,] Draco laughed in his head as Harry said that, [and Slytherins will have convinced themselves they need this to maintain their advantage. So no one in their right mind would have said no.]

[You have been paying attention,] Draco said.

[You'll train me eventually,] he replied.

"It greatly saddens me that this summer school has become a necessity," Dumbledore continued and Harry turned his attention back to the headmaster, "however we are living in dark times. With the Ministry's cooperation it has been decided that all those we at Hogwarts believe up to the task, should be prepared to defend themselves should the need arise. That is not to say we intend to train you as soldiers, we simply wish every student here to be able to extricate themselves from any situation that should prove unsavoury."

[That's one way of putting it,] Draco commented.

"I am sure you will be glad to hear we do not expect every student to excel in every discipline," Dumbledore continued with a warm smile.

A small titter of laughter went round the room at that.

"In that vein the first week will see each year group tested in the disciplines offered," the headmaster continued. "Then students will be divided into smaller groups depending on your aptitude for a certain subject or your existing knowledge."

Dumbledore's eyes scanned the whole room as he spoke and Harry felt himself as drawn in as every time the headmaster gave a speech. There was just something about the man that begged attention.

"Everyone will take all classes offered, but the top groups for each subject will be offered more in-depth information and instruction," Dumbledore continued to explain. "At any time, should you feel a particular discipline is beyond your abilities or not to your taste, no blame with be apportioned to you should you wish to skip those classes. Nothing this summer is compulsory, simply inform your instructor and you will be excused. If indeed you find the strain of the lessons to be too much, no one will think less of you should you wish to return home. We have judged you all to be capable beyond your years, but your wellbeing is our first priority."

Harry saw a few faces looking a little relieved at that. He doubted any would drop out completely, but he was sure some would take up the option to leave out some of what was on offer.

[Is he ever going to tell us what we're going to be doing?] Draco said, sounding just a little bit exasperated.

[Probably not,] Harry replied, [you know how Albus likes to drop people in it.]

Harry could all but feel his soulmate rolling his eyes.

"Seventh years, please see Professor McGonagall for your timetables," the headmaster continued, "sixth years, please see Professor Sprout and fifth years, please see Professor Flitwick. Which just leaves it to me to remind you all that, unfortunately school rules are still in force," a groan went round the room, "except for uniform. Areas that were out of bounds during term time are still out of bounds for the summer for your own safety. However, we cannot have you all toiling away without some relief. Every weekend will be a Hogsmead weekend and should students wish to return home for a weekend, special transport can be arranged through your head of house. Oh, and jam-rolly-polly and custard will be available at every dinner."

At that a cheer went up and Harry joined in, just because.

Chapter Text

[Time to find out what's going on,] Draco decided as the introductions ended.

Professor McGonagall was talking to Albus about something so Harry reckoned they had a few minutes. The presence of his two year mates from Slytherin was bothering Draco, that much was obvious. Now that there was a break in proceedings, Draco didn't hesitate. Harry watched his soulmate walk away and admired the striking figure Draco made striding across the room. However, after a few moments he followed him. It wasn't as if they were attached at the hip anymore, but possibly they were on a finite piece of elastic.

"Pansy, Greg," Draco greeted politely as soon as he was acknowledged.

If Harry had interpreted his soulmate's lectures on the etiquette of these situations correctly, Draco's opening indicated that he was comfortable with the situation and quite pleased by it. From the way Pansy relaxed slightly and Goyle shifted his feet, he was pretty sure that the pair were relieved and somewhat surprised at their peer's acceptance.

"I'm glad I am not the only Slytherin representative," Draco continued conversationally, "if they were only training Gryffindors the whole place would blow up by lunch time."

"Give us some credit, Draco," Harry joined in and smoothly insinuated himself into the Slytherin gathering; "I think we'd at least make it until tea time."

"You wish," was his soulmate's response.

Outside of Gryffindor Tower Harry and Draco were usually a united front, they rarely disagreed unless Harry was doing something stupid and Draco was pulling him up for it. The playful banter was not something the rest of the school often saw. The Slytherins were even further removed from the pair, since the knowledge that there was a traitor in the ranks had kept them away from and mostly hostile to anyone in green and silver. Harry couldn't help noticing all of Draco's fellow housemates taking note of their behaviour.

"Finding our names above the fireplace was somewhat unexpected," Pansy said, eyeing them both.

"Never underestimate the headmaster's strategising," Draco replied.

Harry was impressed; it was both a compliment and a warning at the same time. He was absolutely sure he was never going to be as good at word games as Draco seemed to be. You had to have been trained from birth, that was the only answer.

"He does seem to have picked very carefully," was Pansy's response.

It seemed Pansy, at least, approved of Dumbledore's decision.

"Always, Pans," Draco replied with a smile, "that's one thing I have learned in the lion's den, there's always a point."

Harry really was having to pay attention to keep up with the layers in the conversation. If someone asked about the weather and was really talking about Voldemort he wouldn't be surprised.

"I heard your mother has been unwell," Draco changed the subject, "I hope she is feeling better."

Pansy smiled just a little, but didn't reply immediately.

"Much, thank you," she said, looking at Harry momentarily; "an old complaint flaring up again, but there are so many new treatments now."

Harry flicked his gaze between Draco and Pansy, absolutely sure he had just missed something. Draco hadn't mentioned anything about one of Pansy's parents being ill and Harry was all too aware Draco kept a close eye on his former friends.

[What was that about?] he asked.

[Deatheaters,] was the short reply.

When his soulmate said it like that, Harry decided it should have been obvious.

[Does that mean I'm the new treatment?] Harry asked and Draco did not honour that with a reply.

"It's amazing what they come up with, isn't it," Harry said as he decided to pretend to be completely oblivious.

All the Slytherins just looked at him so he smiled. He was about to say something else when he saw Goyle see something and nudge Pansy. Glancing in the same direction he saw Dumbledore walking away.

He wasn't the only one either, as soon as Professor McGonagall finished talking to the headmaster every seventh year in the room noticed. It was quite astounding how much respect the head of Gryffindor had, even from Slytherins. Draco nodded at his friends and Harry gave them another big smile, before letting his soulmate drag him off to where McGonagall was now waiting for them all.

[You're going to make them think you're going soft in the head,] Draco commented as they walked away.

[Then they deserve to underestimate me,] Harry replied. [Besides, Pansy is definitely not that stupid and if Goyle was as idiotic as he looked, Albus never would have invited him.]

Draco gave him the side eye.

[There might be hope for you yet.]

Harry smiled some more at that.

Professor McGonagall was already handing out timetables and Draco accepted theirs with a quiet thank you. Harry glanced at it, but it didn't seem to have much information on it.

"On these parchments you will find times and places," Professor McGonagall told them. "You will be expected to be on time. Initial classes last half a day each, where you will be introduced to the basics of each subject. The headmaster has deemed it best that all students are unaware of exactly what each class will entail until they arrive. This is to prevent any unwarranted nerves."

[Or attempts to swot up on the subjects,] Draco commented.

"All you will need are your wands and yourselves. Everything else will be provided in the class you are attending. Are there any questions?"

Everyone was looking at each other, but it didn't look like anyone was going to speak up.

"As you can see, the first class is not until Monday morning," Professor McGonagall continued. "You are all free to do as you wish until then, which includes going to Hogsmead. We cannot expect you to go straight from final exams into such advanced classes, so enjoy the free time for what it is. You have all worked very hard this year. I only wish we did not have to ask you to work harder."

"Can't let the grownups have all the fun."

That came from Seamus and made them all laugh.

"I expect you to be good examples to the younger years," Professor McGonagall said, expression stern, but her eyes were alight with amusement. "Now get out of my sight, the lot of you."

They had had time off between their exams and just after them, but Harry appreciated the gesture from the teachers. He was also well aware that no one was mentioning what the professors were giving up as well. After all it was not just the pupils who were sacrificing their summer.

"Thank you, Professor," he said, before turning to leave with everyone else.

* * *

They headed back to the common room, because that just seemed the right thing to do.

"So when are we headed out?" Dean asked as they gathered round the empty fire place.

"After lunch would probably be best," Hermione said. "it'll probably be chaotic down there for a while, even after the train leaves."

"Yeah," Ron agreed, "it's always completely mental and Dumbledore did say there was jam rolly-polly with every meal."

"You always think with your stomach, Weasley," Seamus said with a laugh.

"But he has a point," Neville added.

Harry snorted with laughter.

"Y'know you could just go to the kitchen and ask the house elves and they'd give you some anyway," he pointed out.

"It's the principle of the thing," Ron said as if that should have been obvious.

Hermione just shook her head and laughed with Harry.

"Oh," Harry said as they were about the break up to do their own thing until lunch, "I think we should invite Pansy and Goyle to come with us."

Even Draco blinked at him for that suggestion.

[You could have warned me,] his soulmate said.

[I only just thought of it.]

He could feel the silent sigh even though it didn't show on the outside.

"Have you gone mental, Harry?" Seamus asked far too loudly. "Slytherins tried to kill you."

"Not those two," he replied, "and we're supposed to set an example for the younger years, remember?"

"But they hate us and we hate them," Dean said, very reasonably.

"I think you are over stating that," Draco added his opinion, "and it's not a bad idea. If anyone was plotting anything it would unsettle them, at least, and there is always the principle of keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."

[You don't really think that,] Harry commented.

[I don't trust them yet,] was all that came back.

"If we keep inviting them to things they can't go off into dark corners to plot," Ron agreed, nodding along as he spoke.

"And if one of them is a bad apple they might slip up," Neville commented.

Harry had to admit Draco had taken exactly the right tack with the other Gryffindors. Only Hermione shared a long suffering look with him.

"Do you think they'll accept?" she asked, since no one seemed to be considering that.

"Of course," Draco said; "there are more of you than there are of them. It's only sensible to appear to make friends with the superior force."

"And you never know," Harry said, because he thought someone had to, "they might actually like us when they get to know us."

Seamus seemed to think that was hilariously funny.

* * *

It had been a very interesting day, and fun too. Pansy and Goyle had accepted the Gryffindors' invitation to accompany them to Hogsmead. Several people had almost had heart failure seeing the group walking down from the school together. It hadn't been the most relaxed outing, but it had been helpful.

That had led to some interesting discussions in the common room after dinner and Harry was pretty sure things were headed in the right direction. He was so busy thinking about it that when he and Draco went up to their room, he was oblivious until Draco pinned him to the wall.

"Now," Draco said, smiling at him, "I believe we were interrupted this morning. I seem to remember you needed a lesson."

"Could be," Harry replied, eyes watching Draco's tongue as Draco licked his lips.

With a whispered spell, Harry's jeans released and slid down his legs, along with his boxers. The touch of Draco's magic, let alone Draco's hand was enough to get him going. There was nothing to stop Draco's skilful fingers trailing around Harry's balls and then stroking the length of his semi-erect penis. He couldn't do anything about his reaction as he groaned and tried to lean in to the touch. His body responded with a strong throb of desire as Draco's hand lazily caressed him; at that moment his soulmate owned him.

"I think, maybe," Draco said in a low whisper, "a proper lesson might be in order."

Even if Draco hadn't been touching him, Draco's voice would have been enough to make him hard. If Draco wanted to, Harry was sure his soulmate could make him come just by talking to him, which was an idea that, as it occurred to him, he filed away for later consideration. Draco's hand dipped slowly between his legs and Harry moved to give his lover better access as he moaned his approval. As Draco's touch danced over every sensitive millimetre of skin, Harry's brain gave up thinking at all.

He knew Draco was making a point, but he had no brain power left to think after a few seconds, so he didn't try and work out what might be coming next. His cock was hard and weeping in little more than thirty seconds as his lover pushed him further from sensible thought.

"It never hurts to make sure you understand completely," Draco purred into his ear. "After all, I have a lot of skill to appreciate."

And then suddenly the touch was gone, causing Harry to groan in displeasure. He made a grab for his soulmate, but Draco was far too fast and was on the other side of the room before Harry could catch him.

"I was looking forward to the Prefects' bathroom this morning," Draco said and sauntered towards the door. "It should be empty right about now, and we both are a little grimy from Hogsmead."

Harry groaned and let his head fall back against the wall.

"Don't forget our things," his oh-so-very Slytherin lover said with an evil grin as he opened the door and slipped into the corridor, "I'll be waiting."

Harry sighed in defeat as Draco disappeared with a laugh. It really wasn't fair quite how good Draco was at revenge, even in little things like this. Now he had to get through the common room and make it to the prefect's bathroom with a raging hard on and all their stuff. It wasn't even as if he deserved it this time. He only hoped Draco wouldn't lock him out and make him beg to be let in.

Chapter Text

As it turned out, Draco was not in a completely heartless mood and Harry found the door to the prefects' bathroom opened when he spoke the password. He slipped inside and, with a thought, disabled the password, effectively locking the door behind him.

Draco was already in the bath, water cascading from two of the taps into the almost full pool. No matter how many times he used it, the prefects' bathroom was always spectacular to Harry, even more so with Draco in it. The opulent setting seemed to fit his soulmate and the way the rising steam made Draco's skin glisten had Harry licking his lips in anticipation.

There was something almost ethereal about Draco with all his pale skin and pale hair among the mist above the hot water. Harry was captivated.

When Draco looked up at him, silver eyes clear and just slightly smiling, Harry's breath caught in his throat. Sometimes he couldn't believe this was his life, that Draco was his and he was Draco's. Maybe it was the view combined with everything else, but he felt his heart swell and his throat tighten as he just stood there.

"Come here you ridiculous Gryffindor," Draco said, shaking his head fondly.

Harry didn't need inviting twice. He padded around the edge of the bath, slipping off his shoes, glasses and robe and putting their toiletries on top, before sliding into the water. It was beautifully warm and he bobbed under and back up again, pushing his way over to Draco with one stroke.

"Now, I believe you had some learning to do," Draco said.

Harry's erection had wilted a little with the practicalities of gathering everything they needed and making his way to the prefect's bathroom, but it sprang back to life at those words. He leaned in to Draco, kissing those perfect lips that held just a hint of a mischievous smile.

Draco responded, opening his mouth and darting his tongue over Harry's lips. There was no question that Harry would not open up to Draco and the kiss deepened. Harry let himself fall into the feel of Draco as well, focussing on nothing but their connection. It was at moments like this he felt most whole, most at peace.

"Oh, Harry," Draco whispered, breaking the kiss, "is there anything you wouldn't let me do to you now?"

"No."

It was the simple truth.

"What do you want?"

"All of you," Harry replied.

"Bend over the side of the bath for me," Draco said, tone coaxing, but commanding at the same time.

"Where?"

"There, use the steps. I want most of you out of the water."

Harry had no problem obeying that command. It wasn't cold out of the water, but the change in temperature made little goose-bumps rise on his skin.

"For me?" Draco asked and ran a hand down his back, causing his skin to react even more.

He made a very quiet agreeing sound and Draco stepped up behind him.

When Draco reached past him to where he had left all their things, he wasn't really expecting his soulmate to pick up the flannel, but he wasn't about to argue. As long as Draco touched him, he didn't mind how.

"You have such lovely skin," Draco said, soaking the flannel in the water.

"Says the man with acres of perfect body," Harry replied with a small laugh.

"I didn't say it was better than mine," Draco told him and he gasped as Draco went straight for his more sensitive regions with the wash cloth.

It seemed Draco had something very specific in mind and Harry was just along for the ride, so he enjoyed the sensations and decided to shut up.

"Cleanliness is so very important, don't you agree, Love?" Draco said.

Harry would have replied, but Draco momentarily removed his ability to think by giving his cock a very firm stroke. He moaned instead.

"I thought so," Draco said and kissed his back.

Draco then spent the next five minutes washing him from head to toe, with special attention on anywhere that could be remotely considered an erogenous zone. Harry was putty in his lover's hands.

"I think you may be ready now," Draco finally decided, placing the flannel back on the side of the bath.

Once again Harry was surprised as Draco did not do what he expected. The pot of lube that was neatly disguised as body lotion remained right where he had left it on his robe.

What Draco did do was run those amazing hands of his from the top of Harry's back to the base and gave Harry's arse a good squeeze.

"Now don't over balance," Draco told him.

He hummed in agreement and Draco began to kiss down his spine. His lover didn't stop when he reached the end of it either. With dexterous fingers, Draco spread Harry's buttocks and carried on. Harry swore, because he hadn't been expecting that either.

Draco had a very clever tongue for more than talking. Harry's legs almost gave out as his soulmate employed it to devastating effect. His balls felt like they were ready to explode after only the first touch. When Draco reached a hand between his legs and gave his cock a good stroke as well, it took every ounce of will he had not to.

"So there is a use for that Gryffindor stubbornness," Draco said when he finally came up for air.

He sounded far too pleased with himself and Harry really couldn't blame him.

"Merlin's balls," was the best he could manage as a comeback.

"Oh, I'm far more interested in yours," Draco said and fondled them for good measure.

[Please,] he begged because he knew what he wanted and it wasn't Draco's tongue.

[Am I wonderful? Am I incredible?]

[Yes and god yes,] Harry replied.

It never ceased to amaze him how well Draco could take him apart, inch by inch.

Finally Draco did reach for the lube and Harry moaned in renewed anticipation. He was so ready it took bare moments for Draco to prepare him. His body had responded so completely to Draco's ministrations that he opened up to Draco's fingers with ease.

Then Draco urged him forward just a little and moved in right behind him. He moaned long and loud as Draco finally pushed into him. His body opened, his mind opened and he joined with Draco as completely as it was possible for two people to be. He shared his pleasure, his want, his love and his joy and Draco moaned, coming to rest against his back.

This was what it meant to be alive.

They needed no words as Draco slowly began to move. They were together in love and desire, and they expressed both in a very physical manner.

Nothing else remotely impinged on Harry's consciousness as he was enveloped by all that was Draco. At no other time was he ever so completely unaware of the world around him. With Draco in his heart and his mind he let himself go.

He had been so close to the edge from everything Draco had been doing to him that it didn't take long. His orgasm took him and there wasn't a thing he could do about it. As wonderful sensations shot all over his body and he came hard, shuddering uncontrollably, he felt Draco withdraw from their connection, just for a few moments.

He found out why almost immediately, as Draco continued thrusting into him, even stroke after even stroke, as he rode out his orgasm. Draco hadn't given in like he had, Draco was very much still going. His gasps became moans as Draco showed no signs of stopping at all.

"Let's see how long it takes you to go again," Draco whispered in his ear and Harry whimpered. 

* * * 

Harry was sprawled in the water looking thoroughly shagged out and Draco felt very pleased with himself. There was something inside him that liked it a lot when Harry surrendered to him so completely.

His old friends probably would have thought it was something to do with control and domination, but that wasn't it at all. It was that Harry could let go so totally that made him happy. The trust and the knowledge that he was Harry's perfect match were what meant the most to him. His father's actions had tried to separate them and the rings Harry had created for them both meant no one could try that again, but it was their very natures which had saved them in the first place.

Harry opened his eyes, catching Draco's gaze with those brilliant green orbs. He could see his own thoughts reflected back at him from deep within their depths.

"Of course I do enjoy taking you apart as well," he said and smirked.

Harry smiled back and lifted a hand out of the water, holding it out to him. Draco reached out and took it, allowing himself to be pulled in beside his soulmate.

"Love you," Harry said, sounding entirely satisfied.

"Love you too," Draco replied and leant in so their noses touched.

"Ugh, too lovely dovey," said a voice from the corner of the room. "9 out of 10 for the rest though. Try harder next time."

"Myrtle," Draco said at exactly the same time as Harry.

All that greeted them was the sound of disappearing laughter.

Chapter Text

The weekend had been good. After the Hogsmead trip things seemed to have relaxed about the castle. The Gryffindors weren't hanging out with the Slytherins all the time or anything, but the tension had eased. Harry had even spotted Pansy and Hermione nodding to each other at breakfast on Monday morning.

The seventh year's first class was in the Great Hall, so, once breakfast was done, they all just hung around. The tables and benches moved themselves to the side as soon as they were clean, which left them all with wide open space.

Luckily for general harmony and to stop Seamus doing anything stupid because he had too much time on his hands, it wasn't long before a strange man walked into the room through the teachers' door.

"Good morning," he greeted with a smile.

The man had a confident stride, the air of someone used to being in control and was wearing a long leather coat.

[Auror,] Draco said inside Harry head.

[Yeah,] Harry agreed.

"My name is Auror Fitzsimons," the man introduced himself, "and I hope we are all going to be very good friends."

[Hmm, we'll see,] was Draco's dry comment about that.

Harry decided to keep a less paranoid open mind on the subject, after all he was sure Dumbledore would have vetted everyone he was letting into Hogwarts.

[I know what you're thinking,] Draco said, without his so much as saying anything, [and I have two words for you: Madeye Moody.]

Harry had to give his soulmate that one.

"I am an instructor at the Auror academy," Fitzsimons went on, "and I have been asked by Headmaster Dumbledore to teach you all about wandless defence."

Now Harry was really interested. This wasn't what he had expected from the summer lessons, but it did make a kind of sense.

"Can anyone tell me what I'm talking about?" Fitzsimons asked.

Of course Hermione put up her hand. Harry took it as a good sign that the man nodded at her and didn't just ignore such an enthusiastic student.

"Miss Granger," Fitzsimons invited.

[He has done his homework,] Draco observed.

"Wandless defence is the use of magic to repel an enemy during battle when a wand is not available. It uses raw magic from a magical person's core," Hermione said.

"Thank you, Miss Granger, you are perfectly correct," Fitzsimons said with another smile. "Now I am sure some of you think you will never lose your wand, but trust me, it happens all the time. This method of defence is taught to all new Aurors and has saved many lives. We at the Ministry hope none of you will ever have to use it, but it will be a very valuable tool to have under your belts."

Harry could only agree with that.

[He seems to have his head screwed on,] he commented to Draco.

[He smiles too much,] was what Draco replied.

[Albus smiles a lot too,] Harry pointed out.

[But he's batty.]

"Mr Potter," Fitzsimons said and surprised Harry out of the mental conversation he was having with Draco, "if you wouldn't mind coming up here I would like you to assist me with a little demonstration to start."

Harry was not sure he liked the sound of this idea, but no valid excuse jumped to mind. He really wanted to learn something in this class and, since he had intimate experience with pissed off teachers, with a worried glance at Draco, he made his way to the front of the hall.

"I believe you have some experience with this form of defence," the Auror said reasonably.

It appeared the tutors had been given significant information of their students, so Harry saw no point in denying the truth.

"Yes, I've been trying to get the hang of it since Easter."

"Any luck?" Fitzsimons asked conversationally.

"A little," Harry admitted.

Wandless magic was difficult, wandless defence was even more difficult, especially when it came to control. Harry and Draco had both had a lot of practice, but that did not mean that either of them was proficient.

"Would you mind showing us some of what you have learned?" Fitzsimons asked with yet another smile and then waved his wand at the surrounding area before Harry could reply.

Wards similar to those Hilde used when training Harry sprung into life around him and Fitzsimons. He could feel the hum of the magic in them, but something didn't seem quite right. He glanced at Draco, biting his lip, not at all comfortable with the situation.

[Something's wrong,] he told his soulmate silently.

[Then tell the idiot to stop,] Draco replied.

"Well?" the Auror asked when Harry didn't reply straight away.

Refusing outright seemed a little harsh, and he did not want to end up on the bad side of the instructor on the first day. He hoped that a veteran Auror could give him some pointers on how to control wandless defence that maybe they and Hilde had missed.

"Just a second," he said and lowered his shields to where he could see the wards.

He knew what was wrong as soon as he saw the glistening magic, but before he could express an opinion the Auror in front of him reached out and grabbed both his wrists. Harry knew he had the bad habit of lowering all his barriers when he wanted to see or feel something, and that was just what he'd done to look at the wards. Fitzsimons' nervousness at taking the class and excitement at teaching flooded into him at the same time. It took his breath away.

His control was good enough now that the connection did not shatter his barriers, but it was not the most pleasant of experiences.

"Please let go," Harry said as reasonably as he could manage.

Draco was standing just outside the wards, his mouth a tight line.

"Make me," the Auror said as if this was a game and Harry reasoned that, from the balding man's point of view, it probably was.

"No," he replied, quite certain that he did not want to do this.

With an effort of will he managed to force his mental shields back into place fully, but he had been too close to Fitzsimons' mind. He could still sense the man's emotions faintly.

"Don't think you can take me?" the Auror asked in what was a ridiculous challenge.

The only thing Harry could think to do was explain his reaction; he did not believe his opponent would back down otherwise. The man seemed to know enough to realise that his present action was uncomfortable for Harry, but he did not appear to know he was stepping over the line.

"The wards won't hold," Harry said as plainly as he knew how.

The way Fitzsimons' expression changed instantly, Harry was all too aware it was the wrong thing to say. The Auror's mood went from goading to annoyed in a heartbeat. Harry was reminded depressingly of Snape.

"Not impressed with my wards, Mr Potter?" were the words that came out of Fitzsimons' mouth and the way he stressed 'my' did not fill Harry with confidence. "I created the spell myself specifically for teaching this discipline."

For a moment Harry didn't know what to say: this was suddenly becoming personal.

"Look," he said going for brutal honesty, "my control is crap, I use too much power. Your wards will not hold if I throw you against them."

The irrational glint in Fitzsimons' eye reminded Harry even more of Snape.

"They've held for every class I've taken for six years, Mr Potter," the man said pointedly. "I've had the best in my class and not one person has broken them yet."

"They won't hold," Harry insisted praying that the man would see sense.

"Just do it, Potter," the Auror said bluntly.

"No," he replied, very firm in his decision.

Then he felt it; emotion coming from his opponent directly at him. There was some anger along with some indignation and it was deliberate.

"Stop that," Harry said shortly and tried to pull his arms away.

"Make me," Fitzsimons shot back, holding on tightly.

"Don't project at me," he insisted.

In the back of his mind Harry could feel Draco's annoyance and protectiveness growing, but he did not have time to figure out what his soulmate would do to the Auror if he had the chance.

"You can stop me, Potter," Fitzsimons replied and another wave of directed emotion hit him. "If you don't like it, break the contact."

Harry felt himself reacting to the projections, his own feelings rising at the input from outside. This was an incredibly bad situation. He knew that his control was bad at the best of times, but there was no telling what he might do being goaded into action by a stressed out Auror.

"Don't do that," he said sternly.

No reply this time just another wave of emotion.

"Leave him alone," Draco sounded very, very unhappy and Harry could feel Draco trying to shield him from his reaction so as not to make the situation worse.

Another projection at his shields and that was it. The situation pushed Harry's besieged Hecatemus abilities too far.

"I said, don't do that!" Harry yelled.

He pulled his arms away while the defensive blast of magic that rose with the yell pushed Fitzsimons in the opposite direction.

In sick realisation of what he had just done Harry watched the Auror lift off the ground with a startled grunt and sail through the air towards the wards. For just a microsecond he thought he might have been wrong and this would simply end with him apologising for underestimating Fitzsimons. Then reality bit and the man flew straight through the barrier, causing it to fall. The Auror didn't stop until he hit the side wall with a loud bang and a sickening crunch that made Harry wince.

All Harry could do was stare as the balding man slid towards the floor and collapsed in an unconscious heap. The healer on hand for just such accidents ran over and Draco walked up beside his lover.

[You did warn him,] Draco said, his annoyance at the downed Auror now all too obvious, [so this is all his fault, are we clear?]

[But...] Harry couldn't help himself.

[No buts,] Draco told him in no uncertain terms, [all his fault.]

[Okay,] Harry agreed reluctantly.

"Nice shot, Harry," came from Dean's direction. 

* * * 

It was a good twenty minutes before Fitzsimons was carted away to the hospital wing. As far as Harry could tell, from there the man was being taken straight to St Mungo's, which left the class without a teacher and wandless defence off the summer curriculum until another was found. He suspected if he and Fitzsimons were ever in the same room again Draco would end the man.

If he blamed himself he knew Draco would have words with him, but he couldn't help it. If he had controlled himself better it wouldn't have happened.

[Still not your fault,] Draco told him.

"Stop blaming yourself," Hermione said at almost the same time.

Clearly he was being obvious.

"But I just ruined the first summer class we're supposed to have," he said, since there appeared to be no point in denying what was going through his head.

"No, that incompetent ruined it," Hermione said. "He deserves every broken bone and I almost wish he had to heal the Muggle way."

Apparently Hermione could be vindictive.

"The moron will be fine by tomorrow," Draco added and Harry did his very best to banish the guilt.

He was sure the conversation would have continued, but a very familiar figure walked through the hall doors.

[Hilde's here,] he told Draco, somewhat surprised.

The woman in question appeared a little shocked as Fitzsimons was carried out of the room past where she was standing. It was not long before she looked up, scanned the room and met Harry's eyes, and an even shorter time after that before she was making her way towards him.

"My, Harry," she said with a tone somewhere between confused and amused, "what did you do to the poor man?"

His first thought was how had she known it was him, but he never had a chance to voice the question.

"That 'poor man'," Draco replied, "decided that grabbing Harry and projecting at him to make him demonstrate what he knew was a good idea, even after Harry told him his barrier ward would not hold. He deserved everything he got."

Harry put a hand on his soulmate's arm in a comforting gesture. Draco was still very annoyed, and as with all things concerning Harry's safety, Draco was completely unforgiving of any who would go against him.

"Quite so," Hilde agreed, much to Harry's surprise. "And here I was hoping to see a qualified Ministry trainer at work, and the man turns out to be an idiot."

That gained her a smile from Draco, and Hilde seemed to appreciate the gesture even if, in his current mood, it made Draco appear rather more manic than friendly.

"That's what I just said," Hermione agreed, "and excuse me, but I think Ron might be picking a fight with a Hufflepuff."

Harry could only assume it was about Quidditch, which provided a momentary distraction from everything else going through his head, but it didn't last.

"I could have killed him," Harry said, still feeling incredibly guilty, "I shouldn't have lost control."

Hilde and Draco shared a looked and for a moment he felt as if he was the one on the outside of a bond.

"I thought we settled this," his soulmate said, looking him straight in the eye and pursing his lips. "If the man hadn't been such a moron nothing would have happened to him."

Hilde was nodding.

"Touching a Hecatemus without his permission is asking for trouble," the woman said in agreement; "grabbing him and then projecting at him is plain suicide. You have to protect yourself, Harry. What Fitzsimons did is technically criminal; it was assault."

Harry frowned. He had never looked at the situation from that angle, but it just seemed so silly.

"He was just thinking at me," he said.

"Which could have damaged your shields and caused you, your soulmate and those around you significant harm," Hilde said. "What you seem to forget, Harry, is that you are extraordinary. The last Hecatema to be assaulted in such a manner destroyed the whole room she was in, and she had been trained since childhood. There are laws for a reason and that man broke several of them."

"Told you," Draco said, crossing his arms to make his point. [Now what do we say in situations like this?]

That made Harry smile, even if only slightly.

[Draco knows best, always listen to Draco,] he replied dutifully.

He was rewarded for his response by his soulmate moving in closer and giving him a quick kiss.

[And don't ever forget it, you obstinate Gryffindor,] Draco told him.

For just a moment the rest of the world did not exist as Harry looked into his soulmate's eyes. It was times like this when he knew why he loved Draco so much.

Of course they had other things to think about at the moment.

Chapter Text

Harry could have spent all day looking at his soulmate, but as suddenly as it had started, it was over and Draco snapped back round to look at Hilde again.

"And now that I come to think of it," Draco said brightly, "you, my dear Hilde may be just what we need. How do you fancy a class of some magnitude, rather than just two?"

That took the ex-Hufflepuff by surprise. She open and closed her mouth a couple of times and gently began to blush.

"I couldn't," she said, obviously flustered. "I'm sure the headmaster must have a better replacement than me."

"I don't know," Draco said with a charming smile, "if you can teach Harry something, then anyone else would be a picnic."

For that Harry swatted his lover on the arm.

"I'm only an amateur," Hilde protested again, "a professional would be far better."

"Hilde," Harry said, joining in since he could see the merit in the idea and it took the focus off him, "if there's anything you don't know about the subject by now it would fit onto a piece of parchment an inch across."

"I would be pressed to do anything but concur."

Harry jumped and turned to see Albus standing not two feet behind him. How on earth he had missed the headmaster's approach was a mystery to him, since now that Harry knew he was there he could sense Albus; the wizard radiated magic wherever he went. At the praise Hilde went an even darker shade of lovely pink.

"I'm afraid I will be unable to refill the position for a few days," the headmaster continued pleasantly. "If you could see your way to assisting us in the interim I would be forever in you debt."

Hilde looked between all three of them and Harry gave her a grin, it was obvious she knew she had been outmanoeuvred.

"I would be honoured," she said, "but only until the Ministry send someone else," she added.

"Of course, of course," Albus said, his eyes twinkling brightly. "Come, allow me to introduce you to the rest of the pupils."

Harry drifted back towards the front of the hall as Hilde was led to the open space which was supposed to be where they were learning wandless defence. The poor woman appeared rather embarrassed and Harry could not help sympathising. If Dumbledore set his mind to something there were very few people who could refuse.

It occurred to Harry that if the way the headmaster's eyes were twinkling was anything to go by, they may never have a substitute and Hilde would be stuck with the job. He had absolutely no doubt that his teacher was perfectly qualified to take the class, much more so than any Auror if Fitzsimmons was anything to go by. He looked forward to her unique sense of instruction.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Albus called everyone's attention to him, "unfortunately Mr Fitzsimons will be unable to continue this tutorial, however, we are blessed with a most delightful replacement."

Hilde was pinker than ever as she smiled at the assembled group.

"Now some of you will have seen Professor Praeceptrix around the school during the last year," the headmaster continued at his usual rambling place. "She has been Harry and Draco's personal tutor since their delightful bonding. To my great pleasure she has agreed to be our interim teacher for wandless defence. Professor, your class."

"Um," Hilde said, bouncing on the balls of her feet in the way she always did when excited, "well hello. Please call me Hilde; I feel about a hundred when anyone calls me Professor."

That drew a titter of laughter from the assembled pupils. She was someone it was very difficult not to like, although when Harry glanced around the room the two Slytherins in the group still appeared dubious.

"Now wandless defence is a most fascinating discipline; it's different for everyone," Hilde explained, warming to her position, "which makes it a complete bugger to learn."

Even Pansy and Goyle laughed at that.

"I'm afraid I am no expert," Hilde ploughed on with a bright smile, "but I promise to do my best until Professor Dumbledore can find a replacement."

Harry couldn't help thinking she was already doing better than the supposed expert who had been taking the class.

"Right, well," his tutor decided quickly, "I suppose we should get on with it since you've already lost so much time this morning. Draco, would you mind helping me to begin with."

When his soulmate moved forward it was with far less trepidation than Harry had been feeling earlier. Harry felt only a moment of discomfort at the separation. Once Draco was standing with her, Hilde pulled out her wand and reactivated the ward spells.

"Now I could spend an hour or so sorting these out," Hilde said with a wry grin at the class, "but why go the long way round when you have a short cut? Harry, would you be so kind as to tell me why these failed."

Letting down his shield to magic slightly, Harry took a good look at the wards to make sure his earlier conclusions were correct. His instincts told him most of what he needed to know, but it never hurt to be positive about these things.

"The overall structure is sound," he said, looking at the intricate magical web, "but there are no safeguards against a large impulse of magic. The foundations need a magical reserve so they can cope with something like that."

"I think he means something like him," Seamus interrupted, but it made everyone laugh again, so Harry didn't mind.

"You'd be surprised what your average wizard can do when pushed," Hilde said, before turning her attention to the wards.

She set about casting a few spells of her own. Every time she whispered some Latin and pointed her wand the wards glowed, and Harry was pretty sure it was visible to the others as well as himself. They all appeared impressed. It was not every day they were allowed to witness someone so efficiently shoring up magical barriers.

"Right then," Hilde said when she was finished, "okay now, Harry?"

He nodded, his magical sense was quite happy now, absolutely no nagging doubt left whatsoever.

"Then I think it's time to begin," Hilde said, addressing the whole class.

[Save me,] Draco said dramatically, and Harry had to fight down the urge to laugh out loud.

[Drama queen,] he sent back as he bit his lip to keep from chuckling.

"Now wandless defence is all about mental attitude," Hilde continued, oblivious to the silent conversation going on. "We are trained very early that wands are the only way to do magic, but we all did accidental magic as children, proving that we knew better long before we were given our first little wooden stick. The problem is focus."

She slipped her wand back into its holder and held up both of her hands.

"We're going to start using the hands as our focus," Hilde explained, barely containing the cheerful bouncing, "because it's the closest to what we normally do."

Of course Harry had heard all of this before, but he still listened. It was impossible to tell if Hilde would drop a new titbit of information in as she talked. She really did have a Ravenclaw's mind and a Hufflepuff's heart.

"It's all about visualisation," Hilde explained. "For example, I think of my whole body as a wand and, in this case, my hands as the tip. Harry and Draco, however, have a different solution. Would you care to explain, Draco?"

"I think of the pores in my skin as tiny little wands, or conduits," Draco dutifully told the class.

"Both techniques are equally as valid," Hilde took over again, "and you all may come up with different ideas that suit you. Our minds all work in different ways, so different visualisations work better for different individuals."

"Just ask Seamus," someone piped up from the back.

"Yeah, yeah," Seamus responded as everyone laughed at him for a change, "I can't help it if me genius shows through."

Harry grinned, if there was one thing you could say about Seamus it was that he could take it as well as he could dish it out.

"Draco, shall we demonstrate?" Hilde asked as the class settled once again.

"With pleasure," Draco replied. "Would you like to lead or shall I?"

That caused some more laughter. Harry settled in to enjoy the view. Draco was wearing a very stylish pair of black jeans and, from his current angle, Harry had the perfect view of his soulmate's arse.

[Really? Now?] Draco shot at him as Hilde lifted her hands into the ready position.

"Show us what you've got, Draco," Hilde said with a grin.

[I can already see,] Harry said, totally unrepentant in his ogling.

He couldn't help it if Draco was always the number one thing on his mind and he was a teenager with hormones.

Draco ignored him and instead brought his hands up to meet Hilde's. It was something they had done a hundred times since the Dursley incident that had created the need to learn. Harry watched as Draco frowned just a little in concentration before Hilde went sliding backwards on the smooth floor. With his barriers up, Harry couldn't see the energy, but, as with every time Draco used magic, Harry felt it and it sent a wonderful thrill up his spine.

He loved it when Draco was in his element.

"Thank you, Draco," Hilde said, pulling out her wand and dropping the wards.

Draco nodded and walked over to return to Harry's side.

"Now, it might not have looked like much," Hilde continued, looking around the room, "but imagine you're in a dark alley and someone grabs you from behind. You can't reach your wand and they're bigger than you, but you're not helpless. Draco was very controlled just now, but you could use a much bigger blast."

"Like Harry," someone said.

"Exactly," Hilde replied and grinned at him as he blushed. "You could think of your whole back as a wand and send your hypothetical attacker sailing away from you."

"So why doesn't everyone learn then?" Susan Bones asked.

"Pride."

Surprisingly it was Pansy who spoke up.

"Would you care to elaborate on that statement?" Hilde asked.

"We are all taught our wands are an extension of ourselves," Pansy said. "To lose one's wand is a failure; hence wandless defence is sign of weakness. So, pride."

Hilde raised her eyebrows for a moment and slowly nodded.

"I hadn't considered it from that angle before," she said, "very good Miss Parkinson, thank you. It's also harder than it looks, of course."

The class laughed.

"This morning I would like to test you all, one at a time, to see if you have an aptitude for this discipline," Hilde explained. "Don't worry if you can't do it straight away, it takes a lot of practice and we'll get you there in the end."

Harry was more than pleased to take a back seat as all his fellow seventh-years were put to the test.

* * * 

"Okay, how did you do it?" Dean asked as the Great Hall rearranged itself around them in time for lunch.

Draco walked back from where he had been checking arrangements for their next private meeting with Hilde to Harry, who, it appeared, was being quizzed by Gryffindors.

"Like Hilde said," Harry replied, "it's about focus. When I first watched Hilde teaching Draco about it I could see the magic gathering in his hands and it looked like he was pushing one flat surface against another. That's how the idea about pores started."

"I tried that," Dean said, "but it didn't work."

"Did for me," Neville said.

Everyone had been somewhat shocked when Neville had managed to move Hilde on his first try, even Draco; everyone that is except Harry. Sometimes Draco wondered quite how differently Harry saw everyone and everything, and he was in Harry's head. Merlin knew what the rest of the world thought.

"You have to figure out how you feel the magic," Draco put his two knuts in. "Harry sees it, so that visualisation works for us, but every witch and wizard experiences magic a little differently. The spells help us use it, but in here," he pointed to his chest, "we're all unique."

"Like snowflakes," Lavender commented.

Draco did his very best not to laugh, he really did.

"How do I feel magic?" Dean checked.

"Try casting a few spells and concentrate on how it feels rather than on what you're doing," Harry suggested.

"We're so used to doing things by wrote we don't always notice what we're actually up to," Hermione added. "In one way Harry has the advantage over us on that; he's had to rethink everything already."

"Not sure that's really an advantage," Harry replied with a laugh.

"You haven't blown anything up in a while," Draco said in his best dry tone; "that's definitely an advantage."

"Explain why I love you again," was Harry's comeback.

"Ugh, if it's getting mushy over here I'm going to sit down," Dean said as if it was the worst thing in the world.

"How d'you think he'd look with green hair?" Draco asked Harry in a very exaggerated stage whisper.

Dean just rolled his eyes, which kind of underlined just how much Draco had lost his mantle of Slytherin terror. He made a mental note to get it back.

"Come on," he said, slipping his arm into Harry's, "we're going to sit with Pansy."

[We'll probably cause a riot,] Harry pointed out.

[Don't care.]

They may have invited the Slytherins to Hogsmeade with them, but so far, everyone had stuck to their own tables at meal times. Draco decided that was about to change, the consequences be damned.

Chapter Text

Their next class after lunch was in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. Lunch had been interesting, but not as radical as Draco had hoped. In fact he and Harry had simply started a trend. It appeared that people had just been waiting for someone to have the guts not to stick to usual school routine and then houses were lost as year groups took over.

No one else came and sat on the Slytherin table, but one of the younger Slytherins did go and join the Ravenclaws.

Remarkably, none of the years gave away anything about their first classes to the others, so what they were in for, no one had a clue.

Draco was watching Harry carefully for any signs of fallout from his run in with Fitzsimons, but so far he was pretty sure his soulmate was just a bit tired from shielding against all the rather uncontrolled magic from the previous class.

Sometimes it seemed like only yesterday that they had been safe in their little room in the hospital wing, away from the rest of the school, and yet Harry had progressed so far since then. If he was honest they both had; he really was getting better at not trying to kill anyone who so much as looked at Harry the wrong way. Not that he was telling anyone that any time soon, of course.

Their year group walked to their next class together with several people guessing at what it might be. Draco didn't really think Albus' reasons for not telling everyone what the classes were, were particularly valid, and most likely had more to do with the headmaster finally going senile, but there was nothing they could do about it.

Who would be teaching the class was also a matter that no one had seen fit to reveal, and so he wasn't particularly surprised when they walked into the DADA classroom and found a complete stranger sitting on the desk at the front. He just hoped that the woman wasn't as incompetent as Fitzsimons had been, or he was going to have to have words with the Ministry on their choice of employees.

What did rather make him sit up and take notice was Harry's reaction. Upon seeing the strange, middle aged witch his soulmate brightened with recognition and smiled broadly. Not the usual reaction to someone totally unfamiliar.

"Hi Tonks," Harry greeted cheerfully, as they walked in.

"Wotcha, Harry," the previously unidentified female said with a laugh, "thanks for blowing my cover."

At that Harry stopped, blinked and seemed to realise for the first time that Tonks was not wearing her own face. The stab of worry and guilt that flew through Harry as he realised what he had done caused Draco to move in protectively. However, Tonks was still grinning as she screwed up her face in concentration and the usual, although blue haired, Auror was revealed.

"Don't look so down, chuck," she said, hopping off the desk and almost falling on her face as she stood on her own shoe lace, "or your blond bombshell might kill me. Hello everyone, I'm Tonks, please make yourselves comfortable."

Harry still felt unsure about whether he had just ballsed up the beginning of their friend's class, but Draco was pretty sure she had been joking. He steered Harry to sit down.

"Note well, class," Tonks said with a bright smile, "even metamorphmagi abilities are bog all use against a Hecatemus. How did you know it was me, Harry?"

There was a familiar blank look on Harry's face that made Draco smile; if anything could be relied upon it was that Harry would do something that he could not explain.

[You probably saw her magical signature without thinking about it,] Draco offered helpfully. [I suspect a metamorphmagus is somewhat distinctive.]

"I don't think I was really looking with my eyes," Harry admitted sheepishly, but finally began to relax. "Sorry."

"Not to worry, mate," Tonks said with her usual cheerful demeanour. "It might be interesting to see what else you can see through too."

[Useful to know as well,] Draco commented, although Harry appeared dubious.

[I'd really rather just be one of the class,] Harry replied in a resigned manner.

[Love,] Draco replied and sent a mental hug at the same time, [you will never be just one of the class.]

His comment was met by silence, but Harry did squeeze his hand. Always being singled out was not something either of them could get away from anymore, and sometimes Harry did not take it well.

"Okay," Tonks drew his attention as she began to speak, "this lesson is going to be all about how to change how you look and hide from those you do not want to find you. I'll be teaching you charms, hexes and even some Muggle methods so that you can appear to vanish into a crowd or become someone else at will. You may ask yourselves 'What use is that at Hogwarts', to which I will reply, 'not a lot, but you won't always be within these safe halls'. Being able to disguise myself has saved my life on several occasions; and I've had to do it without magic as well, so don't think being a metamorphmagus is my only talent."

Draco had no doubt that there were people under Voldermort's employ who would be able to spot him and Harry through any disguise. They were just too important to the Dark Lord for the wizard not to have some specialists on it. However, Draco settled in to see if he could learn anything useful. If there was one thing Draco was a great believer in, it was being prepared.

* * *

The previous day had been interesting to say the least. Draco could have lived without the stress of wandless defence with Fitzsimons, but he had enjoyed it once Hilde had taken over. His cousin Tonks had been more than entertaining as well. This morning they had been asked to congregate in the hospital wing, which gave them all a hint as to what kind of thing they might be doing.

Unfortunately the whole episode with Fitzsimons had managed to unsettle both of them and they hadn't had the most restful night's sleep. It had been Draco's nightmare, but he'd managed to drag Harry in, which had taken a couple of hours out of their night. He was feeling somewhat less than enthusiastic because of it.

Harry on the other hand was decidedly perky; it was a little annoying. The whole 'well I've had nightmares for years so I guess I'm used to it' explanation, hadn't exactly been the most settling of admissions from his soulmate. Sometimes he wanted to take the whole damn Wizarding World and shake them for what they had done to Harry.

[Are you okay?] Harry asked as they took their places for the class.

There were seats set out at one end of the hospital wing with a small table in front of each pair of chairs.

[Yes,] he said and realised he was being snappy, [just a little tired. Sorry, I don't mean to be waspish.]

[We all have bad days,] Harry replied.

With the words came a feeling of love and companionship. Draco felt his spirits lift, at least a little.

[I just hope this class isn't boring or I might fall asleep,] he said.

[I'll think of something to keep you awake,] Harry promised and then sent him a very x-rated mental image.

[Harry!]

All his soulmate did was laugh. He would have said more, but Madam Pomfrey chose that moment to walk to the desk in front of them.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," Madam Pomfrey greeted. "Professor Dumbledore has asked me give you all a grounding in magical first aid. As you are all aware, medical magic takes an aptitude, just like all other magic, but, never fear, I shall not be expecting any of you to be the next chief healer."

"Thank the lord," Seamus piped up, "me Ma's heart would never take the shock."

Everyone laughed and even Draco managed to raise a smile. At least they could guarantee that Seasmus would always be able to lift the mood, not that Draco would admit that out loud, ever.

"Now, there are not always the supplies available to help an injured friend and many of the healing spells take many years of practice to perfect," Madam Pomfrey continued. "What I will be teaching you are small spells and techniques to help a patient until proper medical aid can be obtained."

[Lockhart,] Harry said silently, [I will never forget what Lockhart did to my arm. Glad Madam Pomfrey isn't expecting us to perform miracles.]

[Very practical woman,] Draco replied.

"What we need to do today is discover who, if any of you, have the instincts for some of the more complex medicinal magic," Madam Pomfrey told them. "For this I would like you to form into teams of two."

[Well that's easy,] Draco commented.

"Preferably with someone you do not consider a close friend," Madam Pomfrey added, "except for Mr Potter and Mr Malfoy."

[Like I said, very practical woman,] Draco said as the objection he was about to voice became irrelevant.

"Why, Madam Pomfrey?" Padma asked.

"We all have greater empathy with our friends than with those we consider acquaintances," Madam Pomfrey explained. "For this test that particular circumstance could skew the results."

That made sense to Draco, but he could tell some of the class were not particularly happy about it.

"Chop chop," Madam Pomfrey said as everyone just milled around.

That got the whole class moving. Draco noted with interest that Hermione immediately made a bee-line straight for Pansy. Greg was not so lucky to be actually chosen by a partner and ended up paired with a Hufflepuff.

[Hermione seems to like Pansy,] Harry observed.

[Or she's going with the adage, enemies closer,] Draco said.

[No, she likes Pansy,] Harry told him and sounded completely sure.

[We're all doomed,] is what Draco decided at that.

Harry grinned at him.

"If someone from each pair would like to come to the front and collect a tray," Madam Pomfrey invited once everyone was settled.

Before Draco could do it, Harry was already on the move, so Draco just sighed and sat back in his chair. He did not like Harry charging into the middle of a huddle of people, and he sensed the strain on Harry's shields immediately, but it wasn't as if he could keep his soulmate wrapped in cotton wool. They were going to be teachers, after all.

"On your trays you will find a pot of numbing salve, a magical scalpel, surgical gloves and gauze," Madam Pomfrey told them.

Draco had a sneaking suspicion he wasn't going to like what came next.

"The scalpel is spelled to remain clean and sterile in all conditions," the school healer continued, "and the numbing salve is the strongest available, so please do not touch it without the gloves."

[I know what's coming next,] Draco said.

"Each member of the pair will take turns," Madam Pomfrey told them, "but decide who will be the patient and who will be the healer for the first try. The patient should apply the numbing salve to the back of their hand and wait for it to take effect. You should be able to feel very little in the area immediately and nothing at all within thirty seconds."

Draco suspected he wasn't the only one who knew what was coming if the dubious looks on people's faces was anything to go by.

"Now," Madam Pomfrey said when it looked like there might be some arguments, "we do not have all day."

"I'll be the patient," Harry said, reaching for one of the gloves and the numbing cream.

[You do know what she's going to ask us to do, don't you?] Draco said.

[She's going to get the patient to cut their hand and the healer to fix it,] Harry said, having come to the same conclusion as Draco.

[And you think that is a good idea?]

Draco did not like the idea of Harry being injured, even slightly.

[We're in the hospital wing,] Harry said, [Madam Pomfrey could fix us all up in seconds.]

He felt much more settled than Draco.

[I still don't like it,] Draco said.

[Which is why we're paired together,] Harry pointed out. [I can only imagine the disaster if we weren't.]

Draco just made an agreeing sound in the back of his throat, while Harry applied the numbing salve.

"That feels weird," Harry said out loud. "It tingles."

"It's supposed to go numb," Draco said in his best dry tone.

Harry rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"The spell we are going to use is Operio," Madam Pomfrey continued to explain. "I will come round to each pair and demonstrate how it is done. I will use the scalpel to make a small incision on the back of the patient's hand. Watch very carefully, because you will be doing it yourselves later. Under my supervision, the partner playing the healer will then attempt the spell. Before we begin, are there any questions?"

"What if it goes wrong?" Lavender asked.

"Never fear, Miss Brown," Madam Pomfrey said, "this test is one performed by all Ministry employees who take the first aid course. The consequences of even a mistake can be rectified easily."

That didn't settle Draco's nerves any, because Harry was the one he was going to be working on.

"You are all welcome to watch others at work, but do not crowd in and do not cause a distraction," Madam Pomfrey said. "Now who would like to go first?"

Draco saw Hermione and Pansy look at each other before they both raised their hands.

"Thank you, Miss Parkinson, Miss Granger," Madam Pomfrey said as she walked over to the pair.

Draco stood and walked to where he could see what was going on at the girls' desk. Harry joined him and, this time, Draco made sure he was between Harry and everyone else who also came to watch.

"Is the area completely without sensation, Miss Granger?" Madam Pomfrey asked.

Draco couldn't help noticing that several of the other seventh years thought Hermione was insane for going first, most likely, especially with a Slytherin partner.

"The scalpels are very sharp, so a touch will do."

As she gave the instruction, Madam Pomfrey touched the back of Hermione's hand with the blade and caught any blood with the gauze. Several people breathed a sigh of relief when Hermione didn't so much as twitch. Madam Pomfrey pulled out her wand, pointed it at Hermione's hand and said, "Operio," very clearly.

With a single wipe of the gauze, Hermione's hand was completely clear of blood.

"As you can see there is no trace of any wound," Madam Pomfrey said. "There is no wand movement associated with this spell for small injuries, if you were using it on a larger cut, you would move the wand tip down the wound. This spell is pure concentration and will."

She looked around to make her point and everyone nodded.

"Now, Miss Parkinson, your turn."

Pansy looked nervous, well at least to Draco's eyes. He was pretty sure the rest of the class would think she was perfectly poised. She was holding her wand a little too tight as Madam Pomfrey made another cut on Hermione's hand.

However, Pansy moved without hesitating, pointing her wand and intoning the spell just as Madam Pomfrey had done. It looked as if everything worked perfectly.

Then Madam Pomfrey used the gauze and Draco's sharp eyes caught sight of the slightest white line where the wound had been.

"Well done, Miss Parkinson," Madam Pomfrey said and Pansy actually showed surprise, "very good for a first try. You have an aptitude for this."

Madam Pomfrey wrote Pansy's result before pointing her wand at Hermione's hand as she spoke a different spell. The tiny scar disappeared.

"As you saw," Madam Pomfrey said, "there was a small reminder left behind. It is this I will be evaluating. Very few do as well as Miss Parkinson on their first attempt. As you can also see, it is very easy for me to remove any traces left behind. Are there any questions?"

"What do we do if someone forgot to put on the gloves before they used the salve?" asked a plaintive voice from the back.

Madam Pomfrey sighed.

Chapter Text

Harry had to admit he was fascinated by the medical first aid. He watched every pair with his shields partially down so he could see what was going on. The way the person being the healer interacted with their patient was fascinating. When it was finally his and Draco's turn (Madam Pomfrey had left them until last) he was quite excited.

"Mr Potter," Madam Pomfrey said as Harry and Draco retook their seats, "I believe it will be better if you use the scalpel, rather than myself. Remember, a small touch."

[If only everyone was so understanding,] Draco said and Harry saw his soulmate's shoulders relax just a little when he picked up the blade.

[Ready?] Harry asked, because this was going to upset Draco more than it was him, even though it was his hand that was going to be injured.

Draco nodded and Harry touched the blade to his hand. It really did only take the lightest of connections and then Draco was using the gauze to stop the blood flowing.

[Ready?] Draco echoed his question back at him and it was his turn to nod.

As ever he felt it when Draco cast a spell, but he also felt his own magic reply. It was as if the spell called to his innate power.

When Draco wiped the back of his hand, there wasn't so much as a hint that there had been anything there.

"Well done, Mr Malfoy," Madam Pomfrey said, "although, I do have to remind everyone that you have an advantage."

Draco inclined his head in acknowledgement and managed a small smile, although Harry could sense his soulmate's discomfort at the whole exercise. If there was one thing Draco did not react well to, it was Harry being hurt, even a little bit.

"Now, if all of the patients will use the numbing counter agent and then wash their hands, we will swap roles," Madam Pomfrey instructed.

[You know,] Harry said, as he let everyone else bundle for the counter agent first, [I don't think this would work on Muggles.]

[Why not?] Draco asked.

[Because I think it uses a person's own magic as well. When you cast the spell on me, I felt something, and I don't think it was just me reacting to you.]

[Are you sure?]

[No,] he had to admit, [but we can test it when I try the spell on you. It might be why friends have an advantage; they're used to each other's magic.]

Draco made a thoughtful sound.

* * * 

Madam Pomfrey was being very diligent about writing down everyone's performance, but the care and attention was taking time. It was a long while before Harry's turn to try the healing spell came around. He had taken to sitting at his and Draco's desk watching, because he'd pushed the close attention a little too far and it had taken a toll on his shields. The last thing he wanted was to mess this up because he was distracted.

Of course everyone in the room wanted to see how he would do. Even people who had kind of given up paying attention stood up when it was his turn.

[I am not an exhibit,] he complained as Madam Pomfrey finished off recording Seamus' result before walking over to their desk.

[Maybe not, but you are spectacular,] Draco replied and gave him a small grin.

Harry refused to rise to the bait.

"Mr Malfoy," Madam Pomfrey said, "we will use a similar procedure as last time in that you will use the scalpel."

Harry graced her with a smile of thanks for that.

He was taking no chances with this and he lowered his shields enough so he could see all the magic that was going on. The death grip he had on his wand was making his fingers hurt. That wouldn't help anything, so he put it down for a second and flexed his hand.

[Okay?] Draco asked.

With a nod, Harry gave his consent and Draco used the scalpel. Seeing Draco's blood had a very distinct effect on Harry and it wasn't a good one. His mind flashed back to the torture Draco's father had inflicted on his son and he reached out without thinking. The healing spell was in the front of his thoughts because he had witnessed it so many times, and he acted instinctively.

His finger touched the back of Draco's hand, his magic moved and Draco's reacted. When he pulled his hand back the cut was gone and not even a drop of Draco's blood had been spilled.

"Well that's one way to do it," Draco commented.

Harry looked at his hand and then up at Madam Pomfrey.

"Um, sorry," he said.

He was pretty sure he had just completely bypassed whatever it was Madam Pomfrey was actually testing.

"Not to worry, Mr Potter," the healer said, "I believe my hypothesis may have been flawed in the first place. I have a better idea. If you are agreeable, I would like you to attempt the spell on myself."

The knot of terror this caused in Harry's stomach was sudden and undeniable. The idea of anyone performing healing magic on Madam Pomfrey was just fundamentally wrong. It was totally contrary to Harry's world view.

[Oh Merlin,] Harry said silently.

[Breathe,] Draco said unhelpfully.

"Okay," Harry eventually said out loud, because it wasn't like he could really refuse.

If he did this wrong he was so dead.

Madam Pomfrey smiled at him kindly, as if she was perfectly aware of his fear. It didn't stop her picking up the scalpel, however.

Harry picked up the gauze and his wand.

[Heaven help me,] was his silent prayer.

He focused on nothing except the back of Madam Pomfrey's hand. As she used the blade, he moved in with the gauze. Before he could question himself he raised his wand, concentrated, spoke the spell and willed the tiny cut to go away with everything he had. He felt Madam Pomfrey's magic respond to his casting and then it was all over.

"Thank you, Mr Potter," she said, lifting her hand and examining it. "That will do nicely."

Harry hadn't even seen the result himself because he hadn't dared look.

[How'd I do?] he asked Draco.

[Not even a mark,] Draco replied and smiled at him, [but then how many times have you been Madam Pomfrey's patient?]

Harry couldn't argue with that.

"Now class," Madam Pomfrey called them all to order, "I would like to discus everyone's insights into experiencing healing magic."

Harry decided he deserved to sit back and let other's talk for a while; he needed time to recover. He also wasn't sure he wanted to blurt out what he had felt because it was likely to derail the conversation for everyone else. Which was the last thing he wanted to do.

* * * 

Lunch was a hurried affair, because the discussion in Madam Pomfrey's class ran long. Harry was still finishing off a sandwich as they walked to their next meeting point and Draco was torn between being glad Harry was restoring his reserves and despairing at the plebeian way Harry was going about it.

[You're a snob,] Harry said and at least talking mind to mind with his mouthful was acceptable.

[I have standards,] Draco replied, [and you have just spread lettuce all down the hallway.]

[Oops.]

Draco shook his head; it was a losing battle.

They had been asked to assemble in one of the corridors towards the back of the castle, but, unlike the hospital wing, the location gave away no clues. What did give it away was the presence of Madam Hooch. The man standing next to her looked vaguely familiar, but Draco couldn't place him.

[Any idea who is with Madam Hooch?] Draco asked Harry because he was sure he should know who it was.

[Auror Duggan,] Harry replied. [He was in on the raid at Brancepeth Castle.]

Draco always did his best never to think of that place. He had been completely out of it for the Order and Ministry rescue, so it had to be Harry's familiarity with the man that he was sensing.

[Good or Ministry lackey?] Draco asked; he wanted to know the lie of the land.

[Seemed to know what he was doing,] Harry told him. [We'll find out soon.]

"Welcome class," Madam Hooch said as they all gathered in front of her. "My apologies for the cloak and dagger, but we all have to bow to the headmaster's eccentricities."

[You can say that again,] Draco commented.

"This is Auror Duggan," Madam Hooch explained, "and if you will all follow us, we will be going to the Quidditch pitch where we will explain further what this class is about."

"I'm guessing flying," Seamus said.

"And you would be partially correct, Mr Finnegan," Madam Hooch replied. "Shall we go?"

It was a lovely day outside and Draco slipped his hand into Harry's as they followed the crowd into the open air. The walk wasn't long, but it was pleasant.

"I hope the weather holds," Hermione said as they neared the stands; "it's so changeable in these parts."

"Working on your tan?" Lavender asked from just up ahead.

"I prefer not to risk carcinoma," Hermione replied, which just earned her a confused frown from the other girl.

Draco grinned to himself; if anyone could put someone in their place it was Hermione, even if that person didn't understand what she'd said.

"I just go red and blotchy," Ron complained. "It's better for flying when it's sunny though."

"The forecast is for clear skies all week," Padma said.

"And when has the forecast ever been right?" Dean added.

"Worse than the Muggle one," Hermione agreed.

Draco had no idea how Muggles went about forecasting weather, but weather divining in their world was a fool's game. It worked until it suddenly didn't and no one had ever figured out why.

"Gather round," Madam Hooch interrupted their conversation.

She was standing beside the pitch where the school brooms had all been lined up.

"What we will be testing you on today is defensive flying," Madam Hooch began when she had everyone's attention. "Now those of you who are Quidditch players may think you know what this is, you would be wrong."

She looked to Auror Duggan and nodded at him.

"Defensive flying is, simply put, duelling from the back of a broom," Duggan said. "The Quidditch players will have an advantage with their broom handling skills, but this is as much about focus as flying."

"For this class we will be using standard issue school brooms," Madam Hooch continued as Duggan passed back the control. "We don't want anyone having an advantage in these tests."

"We will be starting with simple blasting and shielding spells and straight line flying," Duggan took over.

[And apparently they have worked out their double act,] Draco commented.

"There are numerous safety charms on the pitch to prevent injuries," the man told them.

"From there we will move up to more complex spells and manoeuvres," Madam Hooch finished. "Are there any questions?"

"Are you sure those brooms are safe?" Seamus asked and Draco couldn't help agreeing; he'd much rather have been allowed to use his own broom.

"Perfectly," Madam Hooch replied.

[This is going to be fun,] Harry said and smiled at Draco.

Internally Draco sighed; his soulmate actually seemed to mean it. 

* * * 

If there was one thing Harry really loved, it was flying. When he was on a broom he felt free. The school broom was not as comfortable, manoeuvrable or responsive as he was used to, but being in the air was still fun.

To begin with they were working in pairs, just like they had been in the previous class, and Harry was paired with Draco.

It was interesting, because, with the simple duelling, he had no problem firing spells at Draco and Draco seemed equally happy throwing them back at him. Eventually he had to come to the conclusion that they both simply had complete faith in each other's abilities, hence it was just fun.

Neville was the first to go down, knocked off by a hex from Dean. Even though the safety measures meant he was completely unharmed, when they moved to the next level, he was one of the four people who decided to sit the rest out.

Harry could respect a person who knew how to play to their strengths and accept their weaknesses. Flying had never been Neville's strong point.

The next set of exercises involved flying an undulating course and three different hexes and their counter spells. They all practiced on the ground first before Madam Hooch and Duggan took to the air to give them a demonstration.

Harry loved every minute of it, even firing hexes at Draco, because Draco could dodge or counter anything. It was playing a game with the perfect partner, and Harry found himself grinning in pleasure as they, almost, flew rings around each other.

They lost a few more after that round, including Hermione.

"This is fun," Harry said as they waited for Madam Hooch to explain what would be coming next.

"So far," Draco agreed.

They were both natural born flyers and Draco's colour was up as much as Harry's.

"Need a new partner," Ron grouched.

"Goyle knows how to fly and he just lost his partner as well," Draco pointed out.

Ron's eyes opened and he went to say something, but stopped before frowning and then glaring across at Goyle as if the Slytherin had personally offended him. Draco opened his mouth, but Harry put his hand on Draco's arm and shook his head minutely.

"What is the world coming to," Ron muttered to himself, but actually took a step in Goyle's direction; "pairing up with a Slytherin? Bloody insane, that's what it is. And it's all your fault," Ron added over his shoulder at Harry.

Harry did his best to look completely innocent, but grinned once Ron's back was to him.

"For once, Weasley may have a point," Draco said.

* * *

 

For the third round of testing only two pairs were going at a time so Madam Hooch could keep an eye on one and Duggan could keep an eye on the other. Harry was just hovering, watching the second set of pairs get ready to go. There were an odd number so he and Draco had, yet again, been singled out to go on their own at the end.

This time there was no given course to fly, just instructions on which spells they were allowed to use. Given his work with the DA, Harry was familiar with them all.

He was watching Dean and Seamus making rude wand gestures at each other when something changed. He looked around.

[What is it?] Draco asked, instantly aware of his reaction.

[Don't know,] he replied, scanning the pitch to see if he could see anything.

He wasn't sure what had caught his attention, but something had just happened. Due to the nature of what they were doing he had all his barriers tight shut, but he lowered them to look around.

[The safety charms,] he said the moment he realised what was going on, [they're gone.]

He looked up to where the next members of the class were hovering, but it was too late as they set off before he could do anything about it. This was the hardest section yet; people were bound to fall off. There was nothing between them and the sun baked, very hard ground.

Harry didn't hesitate. He put his broom into a dive and headed straight for the pitch floor. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a magical signature he did not recognise, but he didn't have time to pay attention to whoever it was. Even as he landed he felt, rather than saw the first spells firing off.

Draco had followed him down, but his focus was not on his soulmate.

He placed his hand flat on the grass and concentrated.

The carefully woven safety spells were gone, blown apart by a counter incantation. However, there were still traces of them, residual magic that had not yet bled back into the environment. Contrary to what most magical people thought, cancelled spells did not just disappear completely, and like a forensic analyst at a crime scene, Harry found all the little bits left behind.

He heard the yell of someone being caught by an offensive hex and he knew he was out of time. In this class it had become a familiar sight to see pupils tumbling off their brooms, only now the consequences would be much direr. There was no time to cast new charms.

Harry did the only thing he could think of: he pushed magic back into the residue of the old ones.

It was crude and, if he'd thought about it, it probably wouldn't have worked, but his own magic obeyed the traces left by the previous spells. The charms sprang back into life, glittering in the sunlight as he pushed far too hard, just in time to catch Seamus as he plummeted to earth.

"Mr Potter," Madam Hooch came into land beside him, "what is going on?"

"Someone cancelled the safety charms," Draco answered for him as he got his breath back. "Harry just reignited them."

"What?" the indignant response came from Duggan. "How is that possible?"

"I saw someone," Harry said between breaths, "actually I saw their magic; they were hiding over there, behind the stands."

Duggan immediately set off in the direction Harry pointed. He didn't have a chance to tell the Auror the person was gone.

Everyone was gathering round and Harry climbed to his feet.

"How did you know, Harry?" Madam Hooch asked in a much calmer tone.

"I felt something change," he admitted, "so I looked."

"That's another one I owe you, Harry," Seamus said in perfect seriousness.

"This class is suspended," Madam Hooch decided immediately, "but I am afraid I will have to ask all of you to stay. If anyone saw anything, we must find out."

Harry could only agree. If someone was trying to sabotage the summer classes it definitely could not be good.

Chapter Text

The staff had not been willing to outright call the incident in the defensive flying class sabotage. The Aurors at the school were looking into it, but there was the faint possibility it had been someone trying to do something else and accidentally messing everything up.

Draco didn't believe it for a second, but he could understand keeping everyone calm, so he didn't say that out loud. Seamus, on the other hand, was taking it personally.

"That was no accident," the Irish Gryffindor said loudly as they sat down for dinner.

They had each been questioned individually and it had taken a long time, so their group had gone straight to the Great Hall when they were finally allowed to leave.

"Seamus, keep your voice down," Hermione warned.

"Why should I? You can't believe..."

"Of course we don't," Draco said, tone low and perfectly even, "but causing a panic won't help."

Seamus looked around the room and finally seemed to realise that more than a couple of people were looking in his direction.

"Yeah, okay," he said, moderating his volume, "I get your point."

"So, Harry," Hermione took over again, also keeping her voice down, "what did you see?"

"It was only out of the corner of my eye," Harry said, "but I had my shields lowered, so I could see whoever it was through the stands. They were running away."

"If that's not a dead giveaway I don't know what is," Seamus commented.

"I don't think I know them," Harry added; "they didn't seem familiar."

[Not at all?] Draco asked silently.

[Every instinct still says stranger,] Harry replied.

Draco had asked similar questions before, but he wanted to be sure. Sometimes it took Harry a while to sort through new experiences.

"You can tell that from their magic?" Dean asked from the other side of the table.

Harry gave a small shrug.

"Everyone's magic is different," he said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Sometimes Draco was sure his soulmate forgot that he saw the world in a completely different way to anyone else these days. This was the second time in two days that Harry had shown his ability to recognise, or not in this case, someone from just their magic. Draco made a mental note to do some investigating.

"So when you do your thing you can tell us apart just by our magic?" Seamus asked.

"I suppose," Harry replied. "It's not something I've tried. Faces are much easier."

"Even your ugly mug," Dean commented and elbowed Seamus in the ribs.

"I'll give you ugly," Seamus said.

"Boys!" was Hermione's comment before it could get out of hand.

Draco couldn't help noticing that Ron looked very impressed with his girlfriend's ability to completely control the Gryffindor seventh year.

"There are spells to reveal a person's magical signature," surprisingly it was Neville who spoke up, "but they aren't much use because, to most people, it just looks like a mess."

"Does it look like a mess to you, Mate?" Ron asked.

"Um," Harry said and Draco grinned; he always enjoyed watching Harry try and explain things like this. "I guess, but it kind of makes sense."

"So if you saw this person again without your barriers up you would recognise them?" Hermione asked.

Of course it was Hermione who saw the usefulness of the situation.

[Don't worry if you can't,] Draco said immediately, [you're not a miracle worker.]

"I don't know," Harry admitted, sending back a grateful mental hug at the same time. "I've never tried anything like that. It might just be that I know what I don't recognise, if you get what I mean."

"Heaven help us," Seamus said, "but I think we do."

[We can experiment later,] Draco said, knowing all too well that the question would eat at Harry. [Now, I'm starving.]

[Me too,] Harry said.

[Of course you are,] Draco told him, [you did something spectacular again this afternoon. It's only because you do them so regularly that everyone isn't talking up a storm about it.]

That raised a smile from Harry, which was just what Draco was after. They needed to find out what was going on, but, for now, food was the order of the day.

* * *

The common room was decidedly less full than it usually was in term time, but people were still in the habit of congregating there. Harry picked himself a spot in one of the armchairs with a book he had no intention of reading. As Draco had pointed out, it did, however, stop people from asking stupid questions.

Usually after a display of magic like he had managed on the Quidditch pitch he would have a session with the Prisma. It always helped him focus and get his thoughts straight. But he needed to be able to concentrate on those around him and there was no way to fake half focus with the Prisma.

Draco was sitting next to him, with Ron on the other side of the table and a chess board between them. Hermione had been summoned to see the headmaster or she would probably have been there too. His friends knew what he was about to do and Ron had been happy to provide additional cover.

"Prepare to lose, Malfoy," Ron said with glee.

"You wish, Weasley," Draco replied and set up his pieces.

Harry would never tell his soulmate, but his money was on Ron. Draco was a fair chess player, but Ron had a gift for the game.

[I can read your mind, remember,] Draco voice sounded dryly in his head.

[What?] he asked, making very sure to keep his tone innocent. [I know I'm not broadcasting anything.]

[You don't need to be.]

Harry made sure his face was as schooled in innocence as his mental voice and Draco rolled his eyes.

[Just remember that when I lose, I'm doing this for you,] Draco said.

[So you think Ron will beat you too, then?]

[See, I knew it, you were thinking Ron will win.]

Harry realised he had been conned right into that one.

[And so do you,] he said, [and you're the one who's trying to teach me to be a realist. No one can beat Ron at chess. I think Albus might lose too.]

He felt Draco's ire dim considerably at that. Not that he would say it, but he was pretty sure it was put on anyway. Sometimes Draco liked to make a point.

"If you two are finished," Ron said from his position on the other side of the table, "we have a game to play."

Ron looked positively gleeful; this was one of the few things where he was allowed to indulge in the old rivalries. Smiling, Harry picked up his book and prepared to pretend to read.

What he actually did was lower his barriers as far as he dared in such a public environment, and take a look around. He was often so focused on blocking everything out, that he didn't take time to take in what was around him. Today he was interested in the people.

House elves and other magical creatures were positively made of magic; the clue was probably in the name. Magical people on the other hand where just like Muggles, except they had a core, allowing them to interact with all things magical. Harry was used to sensing this about everyone he met, but he'd never really investigated it before, not on an individual level. He'd only used it to tell magical from Squib from Muggle.

It took effort to see it under everything else. The only reason he'd seen the person on the Quidditch pitch was he'd just about dropped his barriers to nothing to find out what was going on.

He looked at Ron first, doing his best to block out other forces like emotion and just concentrate on the magic. When he finally managed it, he had to admit it wasn't much of a surprise to find that Ron was awash with warm, deep metallic colours. What was interesting was the way the seemed to swirl all through him, like a maelstrom.

For a while, Harry watched, fascinated.

Then Neville came down the stairs and Harry flicked his gaze over to his other friend. Neville's magic was all light metallic greens and blues, with only a little of the deeper reds Harry had seen in Ron. It also wasn't swirling all through Neville's body, it was compact and contained at Neville's centre. The only place it flowed was up to Neville's shoulder and down his arm to where Harry knew Neville kept his wand holstered.

Harry had little idea what it meant, but he suspected it was significant.

As he scanned the room, each person was different. Some burned brightly, some not so much, some swirled with metallic colour, others had their magic tightly controlled. Everyone was so diverse it was like looking at the universe in an entirely different way.

Pureblood or Muggleborn, it made no difference. Some had stronger magic, some didn't, and it had nothing to do with birth. It made Voldemort and all his racial purity nonsense seem even more ridiculous.

As far as Harry knew, no one had ever explained why some people were magical and some weren't. Seeing what he could see, he doubted it was purely about genetics. Magic was as unscientific in this as it was about everything else.

Of course the question he had been trying to answer had nothing to do with that; what he'd wanted to know was if he could recognise someone purely by their magical signature. It didn't take him long to decide that he probably could in principle. However, that didn't mean he was sure how to go about it. Everyone's magic was very complex and some people differed from others only a little; remembering it all would be very difficult.

He wondered if it was like Muggle DNA analysis where he was the machine, but it all needed to be written down and compared to be really useful. His instincts worked well, recognising those he was used to at some level, but he wasn't sure he could bring it up to a conscious level. There were too many variables.

"You know if you want to look like you're reading, you should turn a page every now and then," said a very familiar voice from behind him.

"This is me," Harry said, turning to smile at Hermione; "they'll just think I'm stuck on a paragraph."

"Maybe once," Hermione replied.

Harry found he didn't have anything to say in response, because he hadn't put his barriers back up and his other best friend was truly something to see. He was pretty sure there was not one metallic hue Hermione's core had left out. She wasn't simply awash with it either, but rivulets ran all through her body from the central concentration, in ordered streams.

"Wow," he said quietly.

"Everything okay?" Ron asked, looking up from the chess board for the first time since he and Draco had begun their game.

Hermione nodded and smiled, but there was something tensed about her stance.

Harry put his barrier to magic back to full strength and lowered the one to emotion. That clinched it; Hermione wasn't panicked, but she was putting on a front for everyone else in the room.

"Anyone else peckish?" he asked.

"Now that you mention it," Draco played along.

"Yeah, me too," Ron added.

"Come on then," Harry said, "let's visit the kitchens."

"If we must," Hermione said in a very good impression of put upon.

"Bring us back some biccies," Seamus said as the four headed towards the portrait door.

Significantly, however, not one of the other seventh years tried to follow them.

* * *

They chatted about nothing on their way to the kitchens. Technically they still weren't supposed to go down there, but it wasn't like anyone really cared. The house elves were overjoyed to see them and they were set up with cake and sandwiches without even having to ask.

"So, what did the headmaster have to say?" Draco asked once they were all sat down and the house elves had left them to eat.

"Tomorrow they're going to tell everyone that it was a prank gone wrong," Hermione told them, "but no one believes that."

"Do they have any idea who did it?"

That came from Harry.

Hermione shook her head.

"They couldn't find any trace of who it was," she revealed. "Everyone at Hogwarts for the summer has been vetted by the Ministry and the school. I don't know how they did it, but I think they've been very careful. No one wants another Mad-eye Moody incident."

"What about people from outside?" Ron asked.

"Again, I don't know what extra safeguards are in place," Hermione said, "but there is extra security. I'm guessing it should be impossible for anyone to get in without people knowing."

"I hope it's not another Blaise," Harry said and Draco nodded his assent.

The last thing they needed was a traitor who didn't know they were a traitor.

"All the pupils, at least, were accounted for at the time," Hermione said. "It has to have been one of the adults. Either that or someone didn't go back on the express."

It wasn't very satisfactory. Draco would have liked to have gone through the school with a fine tooth comb, but the Ministry weren't about to let students do that. No doubt they thought that with Aurors on the grounds they had everything covered.

"So we keep our eyes open, pat Harry on the back for the save and pretend that everything is fine?" Draco said, not sure he liked the idea.

"That's about it," Hermione said.

"Wouldn't it be better if everyone was keeping their eyes open?" Ron said.

Draco could only agree.

"Professor Dumbledore tried to get the Aurors to agree to that," Hermione said, "but he was overruled. As ever the Ministry don't want to panic anyone."

"Fudge," Harry said in the most disparaging tone Draco had ever heard from his soulmate.

"The man is an idiot," Draco said, nodding in agreement.

"He can also pull the plug on the summer school in a heartbeat," Hermione said, "so we can't openly go against him. I think we should tell a few of the seventh year, but make sure it's only those we trust completely."

"Neville," Harry said immediately.

"Pansy," Draco added; he wasn't sure he did trust her completely yet, but in this he did.

Chapter Text

Of course rumours in Hogwarts spread like mushrooms in the dark, so everyone knew everything that had happened by bedtime. That made the beginning of breakfast the next day a somewhat tenser affair than usual.

Draco looked around and noticed there were a few of the younger students missing as well.

[I think it was too much for some,] he commented as he and Harry took their seats.

[If I get my hands on whoever did it, they'll know what too much really is,] Harry replied.

There was no evidence to say this was anything to do with him or Harry, but Draco could understand why his soulmate was taking it personally. The timing hadn't been right to specifically target them, but that could have just been a mistake. When things like this happened anywhere near them, Draco automatically assumed they were the focus.

If how many times they had been asked about it already that morning was anything to go by, so did everyone else.

"Here we go," Hermione said quietly as Dumbledore stood up at the head table.

"Good morning, everyone," the headmaster greeted, all smiles. "Now I know there are many rumours flying around as to the nature of the accident that occurred during one of the summer classes yesterday. I am pleased to be able to say, we believe it to be nothing more than an ill-conceived and badly executed joke. There are signs the safety measures for the class were deactivated by accident while attempting to deactivate a different spell."

[I'd hate to think of a world where Dumbledore decided to use his powers for evil,] Draco commented. [I know it's a lie and I almost believe him.]

[Why do you think Fudge is terrified of him,] Harry replied. [He could be Minister of Magic a hundred times over if he really wanted to.]

"The Aurors will be keeping an eye out to make sure the prankster does not try to rectify their mistake, however, I very much hope we can put this all behind us and carry on," Dumbledore finished. "Do enjoy your breakfast."

Draco felt Harry relax when the headmaster finished his speech without so much as mentioning him. Everyone already knew Harry had saved the day again, but it seemed to matter to Harry that it not be brought up. Draco had taken to glaring at anyone he thought might mention that aspect of the whole situation.

"So where are we this morning," Seamus asked with a lovely mouthful of toast, "I forgot to look?"

"Transfiguration's classroom, you uncouth barbarian," Draco said, taking great delight in the whole thing.

Among Gryffindors he had to enjoy what he could.

Seamus had the gall to grin at him.

[How the mighty have fallen,] Draco complained to Harry, [once I inspired terror.]

Harry almost choked on his cereal.

* * *

Walking into the Transfigurations classroom to find Professor McGonagall was not really a surprise, after all, she was a stalwart of Hogwarts. However, Harry wasn't sure what she would be teaching them. Tonks was already covering disguise and steal, which involved Transfiguration, so it could be a follow on from that, but then why wasn't Tonks there as well?

McGonagall was one of the foremost experts in Transfiguration in the world, but Harry doubted the advanced end of the subject would be much use in defence.

"Welcome everyone, please take your seats," the professor greeted in her usual stayed manner.

She was as an imposing figure as ever and Harry felt very much like it was a normal school day, except for the fact he wasn't wearing his uniform.

"You are probably all wondering what discipline I have to offer which will aid in your wellbeing should the need arise," Professor McGonagall said. "I am well aware transforming a mouse into a snuff box is unlikely to be particularly useful."

Harry grinned; he remembered his first year well.

"I have been tasked not with teaching you Transfiguration this summer, but the Animagus transformation," Professor McGonagall said. "We have received special permission from the Ministry to register anyone who is successful, but have their registration remain secret until the current crisis is over. It is unlikely any of you will attain the transformation within the summer, but those who show promise will be offered further instruction over the coming year, up to and including leaving seventh years being invited back for evening tuition."

[Oh,] Harry said silently.

[Oh indeed,] Draco replied.

"Although not a defensive spell in and of itself, Animagus forms offer escape opportunities that human forms do not," Professor McGonagall continued. "This old frame is not as spritely as it once used to be, but..."

In an instant there was a cat in her place and she leapt up onto the nearest desk. Professor McGonagall then proceeded to jump from desk to desk, right to the back of the room. It was a very pertinent demonstration. Pausing to give the class a once over, Professor McGonagall then jumped off her perch and transformed back into her human shape.

"...as you can see, my animagus form is much more lively."

Harry was impressed; he was always impressed when he saw the Animagus transformation.

"I will also be teaching everyone the Animagus Reversal spell," Professor McGonagall continued as she walked back towards the front. "Even if you should not master the transformation yourself, should you encounter a strange animal at Hogwarts, or out in the world, you will know how to check it really is an animal. We have a registration system, but it is not unknown for individuals to neglect to use it."

Harry refused to feel guilty; there was a very good reason he, Hermione and Ron were unregistered. The person other than Draco who knew of their successes was Dumbledore, which begged the question, why had he sent them to this class.

"Everyone who elects to continue with this class will be sworn to secrecy with a Wizard's oath," Professor McGonagall said. "No one will be able to reveal another student's Animagus form outside this classroom until such time as this war is over. Should they do so the consequences will be dire and will last the duration of this conflict."

That explained a few things.

"Everything discussed within these walls will be confidential," she continued, "and this is non-negotiable. Should you wish to avoid such restrictions, I must ask you to leave now."

[What should we do?] he asked Draco.

[I think,] Draco said, after a moment's contemplation, [you're going to have to come clean, and I don't think there's any point in hiding it either.]

[Why?] Harry asked.

[If you just leave no one will believe it,] Draco offered his reasoning. [If you stay and try and pretend, someone will work it out anyway. Even with Professor McGonagall's help one of you is bound to slip up. Therefore the only option is to come clean that you don't need this class. I assume you also know the reversal spell.]

[Learned that first,] Harry replied.

[Then, once we get this wizard's oath over, you and your cohorts need to confess,] Draco decided.

Harry glanced over at Ron and Hermione, who were both looking at him.

"Later," he mouthed at them.

It seemed no one, not even the Slytherins had decided to leave to room. Harry couldn't help feeling a little more comfortable about their presence given that they were willing to bind themselves with an oath. Such things were not done lightly.

"There is a piece of parchment on my desk," Professor McGonagall said, "please read it and sign it. Do not expect the consequences for one individual to be the same as another."

Feeling more than a little trepidation, Harry stood up and followed Hermione and Ron towards the front of the room, with Draco by his side. Hermione was first, as usual and Harry watched her go pale as she leaned over the desk and read what looked like from Harry's angle, to be blank parchment.

However, Hermione picked up the quill from the inkwell and signed her name without hesitation.

"What did you get?" Ron asked before leaning over to look himself.

"Lose the ability to read and write," Hermione said.

Ron looked aghast and Harry had to agree. This was definitely a spell very specifically aimed at the individual. When Hermione gave him a pointed look, Ron began to read himself. If anything he went paler than Hermione.

By the time Harry stepped up, he was expecting something terrible, which was why, when he read it, he had to read it twice.

"Restrictions not applicable," it said in bold letters. "Harry, I have no doubt you are quite able to keep secrets and it might, at some point, be necessary for you to be able to impart information you or Draco may learn in this room. Please sign anyway."

[Draco,] he said, quill poised above the parchment, and simply showed his soulmate what he was looking at.

[That sounds like Dumbledore's phrasing,] Draco replied. [Just pretend and sign it.]

It felt weird being left out, but, for once, Harry didn't mind. He signed and then made way for Draco.

[I have the same message,] was all Draco said while signing his name.

They went back to their seats and waited as student after student signed the parchment, each looking as shell shocked as the next. When everyone was sat back down, Harry knew it was time.

* * *

Harry looked at his friends and shared a glance with Draco before he slowly put up his hand.

"Yes, Harry?" Professor McGonagall asked as soon as she spotted him.

"Professor," he started, "Ron, Hermione and I, um, we don't need to take this class."

For a moment his housemistress fixed him with her stern gaze which meant she was trying to ascertain if he was telling the truth. Harry could only think that she thought he might be joking.

"Harry are you telling me you three have already mastered the Animagus transformation?" Professor McGonagall asked evenly.

"Yes, professor," he replied.

Several of their fellow students were also looking at him as if this might turn out to be a badly timed leg-pull. Given the cover for the previous day's events, jokes probably weren't in anyone's interest. Professor McGonagall regarded Harry steadily for a while longer and then nodded at him.

"Go on," she said.

"After," Hermione began for him as he looked at her somewhat helplessly; he hadn't actually thought of what to say beyond the original confession, "the incident at the end of the fifth year we decided to learn anything that might be useful."

There was the unspoken acknowledgement between the three Gryffindors, Draco and Professor McGonagall that recognised Sirius' contribution to the decision.

"Took us six months," Ron chimed in and gained a rather startled look from McGonagall. Harry had the distinct impression his head of house was impressed.

"We only told one person because we didn't want the Ministry telling everyone what we were when we might need it," Harry added.

Since the whole class was being given the same dispensation, this time legally, he was pretty sure everyone would understand.

"Given your rather unique situations," Professor McGonagall said, "I do not believe anyone could argue with that."

[Fudge could,] Harry commented silently.

[Because the man is a blithering idiot,] Draco replied.

"Well," Professor McGonagall continued, "I believe this would be a good time for a demonstration. Too many people believe the Animagus transformation to be impossible and I think a visual demonstration from their fellow students will greatly improve morale within this room."

There was no arguing with that tone and Harry suspected their professor knew exactly who the one person they had told was and was ticked off the headmaster had not warned her.

"I don't mind going first, Professor," Hermione said, standing up from her place.

"Thank you, Miss Granger," Professor McGonagall said, apparently mollified by Hermione's willingness to show off her skills.

In only a moment Hermione the girl was gone and in her place was a large, brown eagle owl with somewhat wild looking ear tufts. Harry had always felt of all their animals, Hermione's was the best. It suited her perfectly and she could fly.

As if she had heard his thought, she spread her wings and launched into the air, soaring around the classroom once and then transforming back as she came into land, lightly stepping back onto solid ground as her human form completed. It was a very skilful display and Harry knew quite how long Hermione had had to practice in secret to manage it.

"I am most impressed, Miss Granger," Professor McGonagall told her; "I am led to believe flying is a skill that is not always natural, no matter the shape."

"Thank you, Professor," Hermione said and retook her seat.

Even Pansy and Goyle looked interested in the display, which, for a Slytherin, screamed respect.

"Guess it's me next," Ron said, looking a little embarrassed, but standing up anyway.

Harry knew just which part Ron was embarrassed about, but there was no need to be, Ron's animal was just about as perfect as Hermione's. Ron was almost out of his awkward adolescent stage, with just a few reminders that he was not quite fully frown, however, as he transformed, his animal showed no signs of not being mature at all. Ron was a very robust, large fox, with deep red fur.

Rather than doing anything clever, Ron put his front paws on his desk and let his tongue loll out to one side. That even raised a smile from Professor McGonagall.

"Thank you, Mr Weasley," she said, "I believe your form is most apt."

Ron transformed back from his fox shape and moved back to his seat beside Hermione which left Harry feeling a little awkward.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10 - Embarrassing

Harry looked around. He could already feel his face heating up. It wasn't that he was embarrassed by his Animagus form, well, actually it was. His face had to be turning a bright red. Even Draco had smirked when Harry had told him what it was. It was prestigious, but so completely mortifying at the same time. Nervously, trying to judge how much space there was available, he did his best to hide his embarrassment.

"I'm not sure there's enough room," he said, "and the hooves might mark the floor."

"Is your animagus animal the same as your father's, Harry?" Professor McGonagall asked; clearly she had picked up on his reluctance.

"No," he replied, "that's just my Patronus. My animal is more equine."

"A horse?" his head of house enquired.

Hermione had raved about it for days after he had first transformed, but then Hermione saw the world very differently from anyone else he knew. That was one of the reasons she was so brilliant. It was the connotations that got to him.

"Unicorn," Harry all but mumbled.

It was a magical creature, very unusual, but unicorns were so pure and flighty.

"Harry, did you just say unicorn?" Professor McGonagall appeared to believe she had misheard, either that or she was too shocked to believe him.

He nodded and tried not to look at anyone else except his house head.

"Black one," he said very quickly, and prayed that he wasn't blushing as furiously as he thought he was.

[Well we can put an end to all that virgin nonsense at least,] Draco said in his head, which really didn't help all that much.

There was complete silence in the room. Harry was becoming really fed up with gaining that reaction. So far he had managed to do something in every class that had afforded him unwanted attention, and he just wanted one where that didn't happen. McGonagall appeared to realise he was uncomfortable, but she did not look about to back down.

"I'm sorry, Mr Potter," Professor McGonagall said with a sympathetic incline of her head, "but I would very much like to see this. Mr Longbottom, Mr Finnegan, please move your desk out of the way."

"I haven't, um since," he wasn't sure he was even capable of the transformation anymore.

It wasn't something he had tried since he had so completely changed. He didn't know if that could have an effect on the result.

"Don't worry, Mr Potter," Professor McGonagall said, "the Animagus Transformation comes from within. You have always been as you are, it is simply that it shows on the outside these days as well. Just do as you would normally do."

Harry nodded; he really hoped she was right.

Taking a deep breath, he reached inside and found the spell that had been an integral part of him since he had first cast the Animagus transform. At his call it sparked to life and lanced through every cell, taking his body and morphing it into his animal shape. It didn't exactly hurt, but it was a disconcerting feeling. He lost his hold on the real world for a moment.

When it returned he could feel strong muscles in unfamiliar form and all the people in the room spoke to deep instincts that urged him to run. As Professor McGonagall rose to her feet, her eyes open in shock, Harry couldn't help himself, he snorted and tried to back away. He soon found that he had no space. Unicorn instincts warred with his human ones as he fought panic. Animal instincts were not supposed to be able to overcome human ones, but the unicorn's natural urges were simply so strong.

Suddenly Draco was standing directly in front of him. He hadn't even noticed Draco move. His soulmate placed his hand on Harry's unicorn head, rubbing gently around the single white horn.

[Ssh,] Draco's mental voice spoke calmly in his mind, [it's okay. I won't let them hurt you.]

[Instincts,] Harry tried to explain, [can't think straight with all these people.]

[Can you turn back or do you need me to empty the room?] Draco asked, still moving his hand in slow semi-circles.

[Don't want to cause a scene,] Harry said almost desperately.

Draco's other hand came up and stroked the side of his face.

[Okay,] Draco said, the epitome of calm that Harry couldn't manage at the moment, [we can do this.]

[Wasn't like this last time,] Harry insisted almost ready to panic completely.

[Harry, calm down,] Draco commanded as Harry stamped one hoof. [Show me the transformation. Go through it in your mind. Let the logic take over from the instinct.]

Draco's voice was so calm and powerful that he did exactly what he was told. He found everything he knew, everything he felt, everything he had done that was to do with the Animagus transformation. He packaged it up and gave the whole thing to Draco. As his magic shifted under his skin he saw Draco's eye go very wide with surprise, and Harry could feel the shock running through his soulmate.

Obviously that had not been quite what Draco meant.

With someone else to worry about, the unicorn instincts faded into the background and Harry regained control of himself. Taking hold of his magic, he transformed himself back straight away.

[Draco, what did I do?] he asked anxiously, and reached out to his soulmate.

Draco's eyes had a glassy, dazed look to them.

[I think,] Draco said very slowly, and shook his head, [I think you just gave me everything I need to be an Animagus in under a second.]

"Gentlemen, is everything alright?" Professor McGonagall asked.

Harry snapped back to the fact that they were not alone.

[Step back a little,] Draco said silently before Harry could reply to his house head.

Harry looked back at his soulmate straight away and shook his head; he knew what Draco intended to do without needing to be told.

[I can do this,] Draco insisted excitedly, [trust me.]

Before he could object or do anything, Draco had moved back with his wand in hand and Harry heard the incantation for the initial Animagus transformation. He felt the strange disconnection that always accompanied the change from human to animal and then he was looking into grey eyes surrounded by pure silver fur that shone white in the light. The closest animal Harry had ever seen which equated to what his soulmate now looked like, was a snow leopard, but Draco was bigger and had none of the spots.

[What do I look like?] Draco asked as Harry just stared.

He did have the wherewithal to send a mental image of what he was seeing, but only just.

[Bloody hell,] was Draco's distinct opinion, [I'm a Freyja's cat.]

Harry was none the wiser; they had never studied those in Care of Magical Creatures. Draco's Animagus form was almost as alluring as Draco's human one and Harry couldn't help himself as he put his hand out to touch the fluffy fur. It was as soft as he had anticipated and Draco let out what sounded suspiciously like a purr as he ran his fingers over the big cat's head.

[What's a Freyja's cat?] Harry asked rather absently as he let his eyes and magical senses explore his soulmate's new form.

[Freyja is a Norse goddess,] Draco told him silently, the low rumble continuing to emit from his cat form as Harry let his finger's wander. [In legend her chariot was drawn by two large cats. Freyja's cats live in Scandinavia; they are reclusive and rarely seen. They have the ability to send out a spell similar to Stupefacto, which they use when cornered or when hunting large prey.]

[And they're beautiful,] Harry added with a small smile; [you forgot that.]

He was so wrapped up in the incredible beast before him that Harry almost forgot they were in a classroom.

"Mr Malfoy," Professor McGonagall's voice drew him back to the present and she sounded worried, "exactly when did you master the Animagus transformation, and why did you not reveal it when the other three did?"

Much to Harry's disappointment Draco flowed back into his human form and gave the head of Gryffindor and apologetic smile.

"Sorry, Professor," Draco said, using all his charm, "I really don't quite know how to explain it. I wasn't an animagus until just now; Harry ... um ... Harry passed the skill along."

From the expression on his head of house's face, Harry was sure that the woman was not quite sure whether to believe Draco or not. It was rather a fantastic story, and he could understand her scepticism, but lying was not something Professor McGonagall could expect from either of them anymore.

"Harry showed you?" the head of Gryffindor asked slowly.

"I panicked," Harry decided to step in, "when I changed. I've never done it with so many people around before. Draco tried to calm me down by making me go through everything I knew about the Animagus transformation, but I must have taken it one step further without really meaning to. It was really strange."

And it had been; Harry still felt a little light headed from the whole experience. He wasn't quite sure how the transfer of information and magic had taken place. It had just happened. Becoming an Animagus was not simply about mastering a spell; there were steps to go through. Draco hadn't gone through any of them and yet now he was able to transform. Harry couldn't help wondering what other connotations that could have, but he was more worried about the now right about then.

"Do you require anything, Harry?" Professor McGonagall asked, switching from teacher to friend in an instant.

"I think I just need to sit down," he said with small shrug of apology; "it was a bit of a head rush."

"For you and me both," Draco said, but didn't seem anywhere near as dazed as Harry was feeling.

"In that case, Gentlemen," Professor McGonagall said, "thank you very much for your demonstration. If you would not mind I would like to talk to all four of you for a few moments once this class is finished. For now we will talk about the Animagus Reversal Spell. Now this spell can be unpleasant for the Animagus, so it is advised to use all other possible methods to achieve a reversal first, if there are options available. However, it is very useful when faced with someone who refuses to transform or who has become stuck in their animal form due to a spell or illness."

Harry sat down and tuned everything external out for a few moments.

[Are you sure you're okay?] he asked Draco.

[That's my line,] Draco replied.

[Yeah, but I didn't just have a whole load of information and magic dumped into me without my consent,] Harry pointed out.

[You did exactly what I asked you to do,] Draco said, [only your instincts weren't firing correctly so it was a little more intense than I expected. Anyway, thank you, that is going to save me months of work and I get to be a magical creature like you.]

Draco actually sounded pleased, so Harry gave up with any guilt he might have been feeling. He just hoped he could make it to the end of class without doing anything more embarrassing.

It wasn't until a little later he remembered just what a range of people were in the room and he couldn't help glancing over to see what the Slytherins were thinking. Unfortunately he seemed to have missed his chance as they were apparently ignoring him.

[They were impressed, very, very impressed,] Draco said, noticing where his attention was. [I think you just took a big step into cementing their allegiance for good.]

[Why?] he asked.

[In all that reading you did to find your animal shape did you look up magical creature Animagi?] Draco asked.

[No,] he admitted. [Hermione seemed quite excited, but she often does about the strangest things and we had so much going on at the time.]

[That's because the amount of magic it requires is staggering,] Draco told him, [and both you and I just did it like it was nothing. There's impressive and then there's us.]

Draco sounded so smug that Harry could only smile quietly to himself.

Chapter Text

Snape looked about as unhappy as Harry had ever seen him. The glare that came his way as he and Draco walked into the potions classroom could have been lethal.

[Uh-oh,] he commented to his soulmate.

[It's an act,] Draco replied.

It didn't look like an act to Harry. Not sure what he would see he lowered his shields slightly. He was shocked to find Draco was right. The emotions he could see hovering around the Potions Master were not exactly happy, but neither did they go with the murderous visage Snape was showing the world.

[Supposed to be a Death Eater, remember?] Draco commented and raised an elegant eyebrow at Harry.

[So he would be taking this class under extreme protest,] Harry concluded and Draco gave him a small smile. [Why do I get the feeling this is still not going to be fun?]

[Because Snape's a very good actor.]

When Snape finally stood the whole room went completely silent instantly.

[One day I'm going to inspire that reaction,] Draco said and Harry had no doubt his soulmate was actually serious.

"The headmaster, in his wisdom," Snape said, voice as low and menacing as ever, "has put it upon me to teach students potions far beyond their talents. Hence in this class there will be no tomfoolery, not chatter, no frivolity and, most of all, no incompetence."

The way Snape looked at him, Harry suspected he knew who would get it in the neck if there was.

"I do not intend to waste my time," Snape continued. "This summer the brightest students will learn how to brew antidotes to certain poisons and curses. Those not competent of that will be brewing sleeping drafts and pain relief potions, which all of you should already know. All successful potions will be added to Madam Pomfrey's stores for the coming year."

Harry didn't think Snape expected there to be many successful potions.

"Today you will each brew the potion on the piece of parchment in front of you," Snape said. "You will be rated on the result."

Harry went to pick up his instructions.

"Mr Potter," Snape's voice stopped him, "the potion requires the sap of the singing willow, to which you are allergic. Since Mr Malfoy is my most outstanding student I will be forced to accept you into the advanced group anyway, so go and sit in the far corner. Do not move or speak until the class is over."

[Here we go,] Harry said. [I'm only allergic to three things so he did this deliberately.]

[Clever really,] Draco replied, [it makes his point, but it harmless in the long run.]

"Yes, Professor," Harry said and walked to the dingy back of the room.

It was going to be such a fun afternoon.

* * *

Harry had absolutely no doubt what was going to be on the agenda next as the seventh years all walked back into the Great Hall and recognised the set up for Apparition class. He very much did not relish the thought. For him Apparition was akin to low level torture, even if it was incredibly useful.

"Welcome," one thing that did surprise Harry was it was Dumbledore who greeted them, "and welcome to Apparition for Emergency Situations. Due to an unfortunate scheduling error with the Ministry, I will be supervising the test section of this class."

[Scheduling error my arse,] was Draco's opinion on the matter, [he just wants to be able to find out what everyone can do without the Ministry breathing down his neck.]

[But the Ministry is helping for once,] Harry said.

[There are still a thousand and one regulations to do with Apparating,] Draco said, [and Albus is probably about to circumvent them all. He'll probably outright break them if he has to.]

[But no one can Apparate into or out of Hogwarts, why would he be so concerned about it?]

[To answer that I'd have to know how the mind of the great Albus Dumbledore works,] Draco replied, [and I'm brilliant, but even I'm not that good.]

Harry had to agree; sometimes it was simply impossible to know what the headmaster had in mind.

"First I would ask if those who have their Apparating licence stand to the left and those who have yet to undertake the test, please stand to the right," Dumbledore said.

As Harry understood it, an Apparating licence was similar to a Muggle driving license in that many people rushed out to get one as soon as they could. There were, however, a few who hadn't yet found the time, but only five out of their current group. Harry thought that probably said a lot about how prepared most of his yearmates wished to be.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Dumbledore said, turning to the smaller group, "because of certain regulations all those without an Apparating licence will be placed in the less advanced classes. However, as I am aware that sometimes a lack of a license is merely a sign of a lack of opportunity, rather than aptitude, there will be a special opportunity to take your test here at Hogwarts on Saturday morning. Please see me after class if you wish to take advantage of this option."

All four students looked at each other.

"Professor Dumbledore," one of them said just as the headmaster went to turn away. "I think we'd all like to do that," she added as Dumbledore faced her once more.

"Very good, very good," the headmaster said, doing a perfect impression of a dotty old man, "splendid."

It never ceased to amaze Harry how disarming Dumbledore could be even when a person knew what a shrewd mind lived behind those twinkling eyes.

"Now there is one warning I must give out before we begin," the headmaster announced, "unlike the term time classes, the Apparition wards on Hogwarts have not been disabled, they have simply been circumvented within the Great Hall. If you attempt to Apparate beyond these walls, I'm afraid you will get a nasty shock, so no one is to make the effort."

[They'd have to be down all the time otherwise,] Draco commented.

"Some very nice people from the Ministry assisted in the modifications," Dumbledore continued to prattle on, "and I am sure we are all grateful for their assistance."

[He totally could have done it himself,] Harry said, [he did it in the Room of Requirement for me to learn before my seventeenth birthday.]

[Ah, but does the Ministry know that?] Draco asked.

[Unlikely.]

[So the headmaster keeps his secret and makes the Ministry feel useful.]

[Two birds with one hex,] Harry concluded.

"Now we are going to start with a few simple exercises, I am sure you are all familiar with," the headmaster continued, "and then we will talk about Side-Along Apparition."

[Splinching here we come,] Draco commented.

* * *

Draco was watching Harry like a hawk.

So far the headmaster had gone over everything about basic Apparating, just to make sure, and he'd set up two circles at either end of the Great Hall. Being a wizard meant that things appearing out of thin air was nothing overly exciting, except when Dumbledore did it. The circles were gold and glowed in the floor and all Dumbledore had done was look vaguely towards the ceiling and say: "If you wouldn't mind, thank you."

Unfortunately that had been the fun part of the class over and the beginning of Draco's extra vigilance.

Four people had Apparated from one circle to the other while the headmaster observed. With each one Harry went whiter.

"Okay, that's it," Draco finally said as the fifth person vanished and reappeared with routine efficiency. "Sorry, Professor Dumbledore," he said as he slipped his arm through Harry's, "I'll be back in a moment, Harry won't."

Harry opened his mouth to protest, but shut it again when Draco gave him a very pointed look. If there were awards for obstinate stupidity, Draco would put his soulmate down for one immediately.

"Of course, Gentlemen," Dumbledore said with his usual smile, "not to worry."

Draco escorted Harry out of the room before the next member of the class stepped into the ring at the far end.

[Well that was embarrassing,] Harry said, although Draco took the lack of a louder protest to mean Harry was at his limit.

[More or less embarrassing than passing out or having your breakfast revisit?] he asked, less gently than he could have because he hated it when Harry put himself through things like this.

"Okay," Harry said, out loud this time, "I'm sorry."

Then he winced again and Draco all but pushed him down the corridor towards fresh air.

It was warm and the sun was shining brightly, so Draco picked a nice spot in the courtyard.

"How many fingers?" he asked and held up his hand.

That at least drew a snort of amusement from Harry.

"I know, I know," Harry said, "I'm an idiot. I will sit here and not do anything, I promise."

"Good," Draco said.

"And you can tell me all of the useful stuff and we'll practice at some point if it might actually be helpful."

Draco put his hands on his hips and glared, but Harry just stared back at him.

"Merlin, you're impossible!" he finally said. "Alright, if, and only if, I deem something to be more useful than you not looking like a ghost I will teach it to you."

"I'll take that," Harry said and smiled at him.

"Now sit, relax and don't do anything stupid or I might splinch myself," Draco said, because he knew his soulmate far too well.

* * *

Most of the Apparating class milled around in the Great Hall as it set up for lunch around them. Harry had returned once Draco assured him the Apparating was over. The four seventh years without their Apparating licences were with Dumbledore at the front of the hall where Harry could see them filling out a familiar form.

While the others had been put through their paces by the headmaster, Harry had been doing some thinking.

[Okay, tell me what it is,] Draco said, reading him perfectly as ever.

[I don't like having such a huge weakness,] Harry admitted.

[It's not like it cripples you,] Draco replied immediately, [and I did promise I'd help you with anything that might save lives. All of us have things we'd rather avoid and this is yours. You can Apparate when you need to and you can cope with people doing it around you.]

[I know,] he said, [I just don't understand why I can't deal with it like everything else. The whole world used to cause me pain and it doesn't anymore.]

[I'll give you that,] Draco said.

[So why not Apparating? I was thinking, what if it's because I'm exposed to the world all the time, but Apparating only occasionally. What if I just need to acclimatise?]

He knew he might have said something sensible when Draco didn't object instantly.

[But you really hate Apparating,] Draco pointed out after a few moments.

[I know,] Harry agreed, [trust me I know, but what if I can get over it? You have to admit its limiting.]

[Not really,] Draco countered; [like I said, you can do it, you just try not to...]

Harry went to reply.

[But,] Draco added before he could, [I see your point. You want to take part in the classes.]

[More observe,] Harry said. [For once I'm willing to go one step at a time.]

[And you think it will work?]

Harry shrugged.

[No idea, but don't you think it's worth a try?]

[Are you sure you want to put yourself through that?] Draco asked. [It's not necessary.]

Harry knew he didn't even have to answer that. Neither of them ever took the easy path any more.

[Okay,] Draco said when Harry refused to change his mind, [but you better catch Albus before he leaves.]

Harry smiled and nodded. He was probably going to regret this decision more than once before the summer was up, but he had to do it. Weaknesses were not something he could allow himself anymore.

Chapter Text

The courtyard where they were asked to meet for their next class was bright, sunny and airy; a lovely change from the Great Hall. Waiting for them was Professor Flitwick and a woman who had to be another Auror, if her severe pony tail and grim expression were anything to go by.

"Welcome," Professor Flitwick said as soon as the last of them was through the doors, "please gather round."

Draco kept himself between Harry and the rest of the group as they all huddled in front of the diminutive professor. Only as he glanced around did he notice several targets placed at the far end of the enclosure.

"It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to Offensive Defence," Professor Flitwick told them all. "This is Auror Parma and together we will be improving your timing, your aim and your grasp of some very useful spells."

[This sounds like fun,] Harry told Draco and grinned at him.

[How did I know you were going to say that?] Draco replied. [If there's one thing you like almost as much as flying it's throwing debilitating spells around.]

Harry's grin only grew.

[So do you,] Harry pointed out.

[That's not the point,] Draco said.

Okay, so he did feel a certain thrill of excitement about the class. What made it even better were the targets; Harry would not be putting himself in the way of any spells. That pleased Draco no end.

"In your Defensive Flying class you were expected to aim at a moving, but large target," Auror Parma said. "In this class we will be working on pinpoint accuracy."

"By the time we've finished with you, you'll be able to shoot the head off that pin," Professor Flitwick added and Draco laughed along with everyone else.

Parma didn't look overly pleased with the joke. Draco made a mental note to keep an eye on her; Aurors without a sense of humour could be troublesome. Mad-eye Moody sprung immediately to mind.

"I'm sure you're used to all the testing by now," Professor Flitwick said with his usual good cheer, "and this afternoon you're in for some more."

Everyone groaned on cue.

"We will first test you on your accuracy," Parma told them. "We will be using the Shooting Spell. Who is familiar with this spell?"

Over half the class put up their hands and for the first time Parma's stern expression eases a little.

"Excellent," Professor Flitwick said, "that should, indeed, save us some time. We will of course go over the spell for those who do not know it and to refresh everyone else's memory."

[And to make sure no one is going to shoot themselves in the foot,] Draco added silently.

"Please form a line along the side of the courtyard," Flitwick said.

The courtyard was about twice as long as it was wide, so they all fitted along the wall nicely. The professor and Parma remained in the centre of the area.

"I believe the Muggles would say 'stick 'em up'," Professor Flitwick said, much to the apparent annoyance of Parma.

Unlike Hooch and Duggan, it did not look as if their two instructors for this class were on the same page at all. Draco looked forward to the fireworks. He had no doubt Professor Flitwick would win if it came down to it.

"This is the Shooting Spell," Parma said, pointing her wand at one of the targets, taking aim and demonstrating perfectly so a small hole appeared just slightly to the right of centre of the bullseye.

Professor Flitwick clapped and so everyone else joined in, including Draco. He wasn't overly impressed, after all the woman was an Auror, but it always did to keep up appearances.

"Now, we would like everyone to practice," Flitwick said. "Once Auror Parma and myself have moved to a safe distance," he looked at them all over his glasses and everyone laughed, although Seamus did already have his wand raised, "use the spell to fire at the grass. If anyone has any problems, please raise your hand."

[Why do I get a feeling of doom?] Draco asked as their instructors walked to the end of the courtyard, well out of the way.

[Because you know everyone too well,] Harry replied, although his grin belied his ominous words.

[Shall we?] Draco said and lifted his wand.

Harry's only response was to do likewise. A sod of earth exploded out of the grass in front of Harry as he cast and sailed through the air.

[Maybe I need to tone it down,] Harry decided.

[Might be a plan,] Draco agreed.

* * *

In the end it didn't take Harry long to find the correct balance between raw power and accuracy, which was a relief, because the last thing he wanted was to blow up a target. However, other members of the class didn't have as much luck.

Lavender couldn't seem to master the spell at all.

[It's the noise,] Draco said as Flitwick tried yet again to show Lavender how the spell worked.

[I don't follow,] Harry said, not sure what his soulmate was getting at.

[She doesn't like the noise,] Draco explained, [so she's stopping herself casting. It's got nothing to do with technique.]

Curious, Harry lowered his barrier to magic a little and watched as Lavender tried to cast again. He didn't look closely enough to see her magical core, but he could see the build up near her wand as she concentrated. She pointed her wand, cast and that was when Harry saw what Draco must have picked up earlier; Lavender narrowed her eyes and looked like she wanted to shy away. The magic she had been about to cast just exploded into a puff of what looked like sparks to Harry.

He shared the mental image with Draco.

[Told you,] was Draco's response.

"Hermione," Harry whispered and his friend looked round. "It's the noise."

He wasn't sure what to do about it, not without landing himself in the centre of attention again, but he was pretty sure Hermione could come up with something. For a moment she frowned and Harry pointed at Lavender.

"Oh," she mouthed and nodded.

As ever, Hermione had no problem taking charge.

"Professor," she said before Flitwick could try yet again, "would it be possible to have ear protectors? The bangs are beginning to make my head ring, I don't know about anyone else."

[Gotta love her,] Harry said to Draco.

[No comment,] Draco replied with a grin.

Flitwick raised his eyebrows and then slowly nodded.

"As ever Miss Granger you have wonderful ideas," Flitwick said with a smile. "I don't know why I didn't think of that before."

Auror Parma did not look as impressed by the plan, but then, as far as Harry could tell, the woman hadn't been impressed by anything so far. He couldn't help wondering if she had been press ganged into the whole summer school idea. She didn't really act as if she wanted to be there.

Luckily, Parma had no say in the ear defender debate, because Flitwick summoned a house elf and, in no time, the whole class was wearing the useful devices.

* * *

It seemed to take forever before the whole class had the shooting spell down, at which point the fun part of the class could actually begin.

"Now, if everyone would divide into two groups," Professor Flitwick said after they had been herded to the end of the courtyard opposite the targets. "Don't worry, these are not teams, simply I will supervise one half of the class while Auror Parma supervises the other."

[Can't help noticing he hasn't said who'll take which half,] Draco said as he and Harry followed Ron and Hermione toward the left.

Harry wasn't surprised to see the division was mostly along house lines: Gryffindors and Hufflepuff as opposed to Ravenclaws and Slytherins. There were a couple of students who found themselves in the other group, like Draco for obvious reasons, but not many.

"For the first test we will be measuring accuracy only," Auror Parma told them. "Everyone take a paper target from the pile on your side of the courtyard and write your name on it. Then place it on the table."

[I'll get ours,] Draco said as everyone bundled for the targets that were in a box on the grass.

It was quite a crush, so, for once, Harry didn't argue and just watched as Draco wrote each of their names on a target using his wand. There was quite a lot of noise as everyone sorted themselves out, especially since some people were still wearing their ear defenders and so they were shouting. However, eventually there was a pile of targets on each of the two tables.

"Very good," Professor Flitwick said to bring everyone back to order. "Auror Parma and I will take the targets to the other end of the range. When your name is called you will step forward and when you are given the signal by myself or Auror Parma, you will fire five times at the target, taking care to aim each shot. There is no time limit for this section, so do not be in too much of a hurry."

[Now there's a shock,] Draco commented when Flitwick walked over to the group containing most of his Ravenclaws.

Auror Parma picked up their group's pile of targets and took them down the range, Flitwick used a charm to move his pile. Probably a good thing since the targets were almost as big as he was.

"Dean Thomas," Parma announce after she attached the first target to the frame.

"Wish me luck," Dean said and walked to where there was a line on the grass.

Harry watched the first couple of people with interest as some shot well and others missed wildly, but soon time began to drag. Hermione was incredibly accurate, but she took forever, and she wasn't the only one using the tactic. Harry took to leaning against the wall enjoying the sunshine. That was, until Draco's name was called.

[Good luck,] he said as he began to pay attention again.

[So I look like I need luck?] was the sarcastic reply.

[Everyone needs luck,] Harry replied.

No matter Draco's words, Harry could feel the fizz of nerves from his soulmate. Everyone was watching, including most of the other group. Terry Boot was getting it easy on the other target as everyone wanted to see how Draco did.

Harry was amazed how Draco could give absolutely no indication he had even noticed. All he did was take up his stance and wait for the signal from Parma.

Doing his very best to keep his mind completely silent so as not to distract Draco, Harry watched with anticipation. The moment Parma lifted her hand to signal a go, Draco fired off his five shots in quick succession. Every single one hit the centre circle of the target.

The round of applause was completely spontaneous.

[You,] Harry said, completely impresse, [that was ... wow.]

[I've been shooting since I was five,] Draco said, turning away from the target and smiling and inclining his head to his audience.

[And you didn't mention that because?]

[You were having too much fun shooting the grass,] Draco replied.

Harry gave his soulmate a peck on the cheek for that when Draco walked back to where he was standing.

They had to wait for Terry to finish on his target, but Harry knew his name would be next. Given how well Draco had done, he was more than a little nervous when he was called to the range. As Parma changed over the targets Harry took a deep breath and did his best to relax his shoulders and wand hand. A death grip wasn't going to help his aim any.

As soon as Parma was clear, Harry took up the same stance Draco had used. Then he waited.

Parma lifted her hand and Harry focussed on the target. He took another breath, held it and fired off his first spell. It hit the centre circle bang on.

"Nice one, Harry," someone said, which wasn't overly helpful because it distracted him.

He had to take time to reset. The second shot went just slightly wide of the centre circle, but he readjusted again, and the next three all went in. Not as fast as Draco and definitely not as flashy, but not bad, even if he did say so himself.

The next round tested speed. They had new targets and instructions to fire all five shots in under ten seconds. Of course Draco had no trouble, Harry had two go wide, Hermione didn't hit the centre at all and Ron had a nice cluster, but to the left of centre. It was interesting to see who didn't deal well with the pressure and who actually improved when they had no time to think.

Everything was going really well until they were halfway through the third round. This was about speed and accuracy. They had five shots once again and a maximum of five seconds for each one. If they took longer that shot didn't count.

Ernie Macmillan was shooting on their side and Pansy on the other. Harry had been impressed with Pansy's performance so far; she, like Draco, appeared very practiced at the discipline. Hence he was watching closely as she took up her stance and prepared to fire, which was why he saw things go wrong as soon as they did.

Pansy's first shot hit her target, but it did not go through, it bounced off at a wild angle, glowing like a spark. It hit the stonework of the courtyard walls and rebounded madly again in a completely random direction. Someone screamed and ducked as it shot over their head.

The spell seemed to be obeying no physical laws Harry knew, and the very significant thing was, every time it hit something, it got bigger. It almost hit Neville as it careered off another wall. Sooner or later it was going to collide with someone and do some serious damage.

Both Flitwick and Parma had their wands out and Parma cast a shield, but bouncing off that seemed to only energise the magic more. Flitwick looked like he was trying to bring it under control, but it was too fast and he was having no luck.

It reminded Harry of the snitch, and like a snitch, there was only one person in the game who could catch it: the Seeker. Letting his barriers fall he watched the growing sphere with more than his eyes, and he called to it. The ball of crackling magic veered off its path directly at three of the Ravenclaws and straight at Harry instead.

He focused everything he had on it and brought it to a shuddering halt just in front of his face. The only way he could describe the feeling of the magic was excited. It was like holding a squirming cat.

Draco hand touched the base of his back, strengthening him and what he was doing. The magic was not about to get away from him. Unlike if it actually had been a cat, Harry had no qualms about ripping it apart. It took little more than a thought to undo the spell holding the magic together and it dissipated harmlessly into the environment.

[That was no accident and no prank,] Harry said and looked at Draco.

His soulmate didn't have to say anything to agree.

Chapter Text

It was apparently as obvious to everyone in the class as it was to Draco and Harry that what had happened with the spell had been no accident. All eyes were on Pansy.

"What did you do Miss Parkinson?" Auror Parma demanded, as she strode from the other end of the range.

[It wasn't Pansy,] Draco said, absolutely sure from the shock on Pansy's face that this had not been her doing.

He knew his friend very well and her reaction was as genuine as the rest of them. Just for a second he felt doubt from Harry, but then it was gone.

[Then how was it done?] Harry asked. [She cast the spell, so everyone is going to think it's her fault.]

"I didn't do anything," Pansy said, face turning into a blank mask that wouldn't help her with any of her fellow classmates.

[It has to be something here, something timed,] Draco said looking around. [No one could have fired off a hex without one of us noticing.]

Harry nodded, also scanning the area, and of course Harry had more than just his normal senses to work with.

"Auror Parma," Harry said, before the woman could start to interrogate Pansy, "there's a spell on Pansy's target."

Parma glared at him, but did look towards the other end of the range where there was a scorch march in the middle of the paper target.

"What do you see, Mr Potter?" Professor Flitwick stepped in.

"All the other targets are just paper," Harry replied, "but Pansy's has been charmed. I don't know what it is, but I'm willing to bet it's what turned Pansy's shot into a ricochet."

"What spell is it, Miss Parkinson?" Parma asked, apparently sure Pansy was to blame.

"It couldn't have been Pansy, Auror Parma," Draco spoke up next. "She didn't have time to cast anything on her target and they were given out randomly. Someone must have charmed the target before you brought them here."

"Quite true," Flitwick said, nodding. "I know of only a few spells which could be used to create the effect we saw today and Miss Parkinson has not had the opportunity to cast them."

That definitely didn't please Parma at all.

"Everyone will remain here," she said with the tone of someone used to being obeyed. "I will summon the proper authorities."

[Let's hope they're not idiots,] was all Draco could think to say.

* * *

Luckily for everyone concerned, Professor Flitwick saw fit to alert Dumbledore of what was going on before Parma could take over completely. The headmaster arrived at the same time as an Auror Harry vaguely recognised from the raid on Brancepeth Castle, but whom he'd never spoken to directly, who appeared to be in charge, and two others.

As with the Quidditch pitch incident they were all asked to give their account of what happened. Also as with the Quidditch pitch incident, it didn't really help.

Parma and the man, who appeared to be her superior, catalogued the spell on Pansy's target and marked up each point where the errant shot had collided with something. It all looked very proper, but not very useful.

Pansy had the indignity of having her wand checked, but, under Dumbledore's eagle-eyed supervision, the check did, in fact, prove her innocent.

[Sometimes you have to wonder if Aurors can see beyond the end of their noses,] Draco said, as he and Harry waited with everyone else.

[I suppose they're just doing their job,] Harry replied, but he wasn't convinced either. [I think the Ministry could take a leaf out of the Muggles' book really; they need better techniques.]

He would never forgive them for what they had done to Sirius. Nothing he had ever seen of the Aurors made him believe that a lot of them did more than point their wand at the most obvious suspect and not look any further.

[Do you think anyone could have made sure Pansy got that target?] Harry mused.

[Not unless someone in here did it,] Draco said, [and everything that happened on the Quidditch pitch couldn't have been one of the seventh years because everyone was accounted for. It's more likely that Pansy getting that target was a lucky break for whoever did this to cause more suspicion. It would have been just as dangerous if any of us were firing at it.]

Harry nodded; that was kind of what he had been thinking too.

[So not a conspiracy?] Harry checked.

[Not until I see more evidence, at least,] Draco replied.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Dumbledore called them to order. "I am afraid that I must announce we appear to have a saboteur among us this summer."

That sent a murmuring all round the group.

"It would appear the incident in the Defensive Flying class was not as accidental as we had hoped," Dumbledore went on once the sound died back down. "However, I must ask a great deal of you now."

Harry had rarely seen the headmaster so serious.

"This appears to be an attempt to undermine the good we are trying to do this summer. Whoever is committing these acts, no doubt, wishes these classes to be cancelled and panic spread among the pupils remaining here. Extra Aurors will be drafted in to make sure this cannot happen again, however, I must insist that none of you reveal what has happened today to the younger pupils."

More murmuring.

"I assure you I will give the school a personal account of all events, should I deem it to be necessary. For the moment, however, it will only cause panic and disruption. Never fear, the culprit will be discovered."

[We have some investigating to do,] Harry told Draco, and on that point he was very sure.

* * *

Thursday evening had been tense. As far as Harry could tell no one had blabbed about what had happened in their class, but that didn't mean no one could tell there was something wrong. All he could do was hope the situation was resolved before someone asked what. The whole air of Hogwarts was subdued, but that didn't stop there being Friday classes.

There were two people waiting for them when they walked into the Charms Classroom. One Harry had never seen before, he was short, but very compact and he had biceps any weight lifter would be proud of sticking out from a short sleeved shirt. He looked just a little bit dangerous. The other person was very familiar and Harry waved at Remus.

"Hello," the other man greeted, "my name is Leo Periculum, please call me Leo. I am an Auror and I specialise in defensive spells and shielding. I am sure you all know Mr Lupin, as I believe he was once your DADA professor."

Remus nodded at the class.

"Many wizards concentrate far too much on the fancy attack spells, when it is defensive magic that can actually save your life," Leo continued. "We're here to make sure none of you make that mistake."

Harry was pretty sure none of the DA would ever think like that in the first place, but he held his tongue. He was beginning to think many Aurors thought they were better than everyone else. He only hoped Leo was not as pig headed at Fitzsimons. At least the man definitely didn't look as annoyed as Parma.

"Of course," Remus added in his usual calm tones, "there is also the option of ducking."

"If you can teach Harry that I'd be very grateful," Draco commented, which got the class off to a good start with a laugh.

With all the tension in the air, Harry didn't mind being centre of attention for a good joke.

"Running away is also a very viable defence," Periculum added with a grin, proving that he did, in fact, have a sense of humour, "however, today we will be learning and testing your abilities with Protego, or the basic Shield Charm."

Harry glanced around the room.

[Do you think we should mention that almost everyone in here already knows it?] he asked silently.

[No,] Draco replied, [he's in a good mood and we should let him have his fun. If he realises and asks why no one mentioned it we can always say we weren't sure everyone did know it.]

['kay,] Harry agreed.

"There are several versions of the Shield Charm, which can also be combined with other charms to provide even more protection," Periculum continued to explain. "Today we are here to find out who may have an aptitude for this kind of defensive magic."

"Don't worry if you have any trouble with the charm," Remus said, "many adult wizards and witches cannot master this discipline."

Given that Harry had seen some prototypes of Fred and George's for filling that particular hole in the market, he was well aware of that already.

"Mr Lupin and I will give you a quick demonstration of how the charm can be used," Periculum took over again, "and then we will help each of you individually until you all have a basic understanding. Then we will test you one at a time."

It was going to be just like most of the other classes then. Harry hoped at least the demonstration would be a little bit exciting.

* * *

Their last class of the week was in, of all places, the Arithmancy class room. However, when they walked in, it looked nothing like it usually did.

[Well that's new,] Draco commented, looking around.

All the desks were gone and there was a familiar looking platform in the middle of what was a much extended classroom.

[Do you think the Ministry used a ridiculous amount of magic or Dumbledore just asked the room to change shape?] Harry asked.

Draco could feel Harry lowering his barriers a little to take a proper look at their surroundings.

[Probably the first,] he replied; [the headmaster doesn't like to give too much away to the Ministry.]

[True. I can't really tell, it just looks like a lot of magic and Hogwarts uses that all the time anyway. I'm guessing duelling.]

[And I'd wager you are right,] Draco agreed, taking a place over by the far wall where he could see everything, but not be in the middle of it.

The last thing he wanted was for someone to get an idea like Fitzsimons and try to make Harry their guinea pig.

[At least it can't be Lockhart or Snape,] Harry said with a grin.

Draco just shuddered; that was one memory he would rather have forgotten for good.

It seemed that this time the class had arrived before their tutors, because all the seventh year were inside the classroom before the door opened a second time and two more people walked in. A murmuring immediately went around the assembled students. The unknown Auror type wasn't really a surprise, but his companion was.

[Professor Sprout,] Harry said, surprise clear in his mental tone. [Maybe this isn't about duelling after all.]

Draco didn't comment, he wasn't so sure.

"Well good afternoon," Professor Sprout greeted in her ever cheerful tones, "I do hope everyone had a good lunch."

There was something of a muttered agreement.

"I must say I am enjoying the jam-rolly-polly," the head of Hufflepuff added, which made everyone laugh. "This is Instructor Gladio, who is joining us from the Auror academy. He is their assistant head of practical duelling."

"Good afternoon, class," the man said formally and nodded his head to them.

"Now don't worry, I am not a stand in," Professor Sprout said and Draco couldn't help being reminded of Hilde's exuberance at the woman's enthusiasm, "I'll let you all into a little secret, I was school duelling champion two years running when I was your age."

[Who could have guessed,] Draco said and was honestly shocked.

[I'm beginning to think all our teachers have hidden depths,] Harry added.

[You and me both,] Draco agreed.

"This class is not about form or using the spells everyone would expect to see in a duel," Gladio finally had something to say. "The class I teach is called practical duelling for a reason. We will aim to teach you how to duel in the most unexpected ways. There are a few housekeeping charms that can do significant damage if applied in the correct manner."

"Sometimes winning is all about doing something your opponent will not predict," Professor Sprout agreed. "Today we'll refresh everyone's memory on a few common spells and then we'll see how you all do one on one."

[Just promise me you will not volunteer to go first,] Draco said as he saw the light in Harry's eyes.

He never would get used to how excited Harry could be about throwing himself into danger, even if it was minimal.

Chapter Text

Most people had spent Saturday flat out doing nothing. It had been a hard week and rest and relaxation had been the order of the day. However, on Sunday everyone was a bit livelier, especially when, after lunch, the class lists were posted in each common room.

There were three groups for each class: Advanced, Ordinary and Basic.

"Basic," Ron all but shouted after he got to the list first, "basic for both potions and medical magic. I'm not basic."

Harry moved in to take a look. Sometimes it was useful to have everyone trained that it wasn't a good idea to encroach on his personal bubble, because he had a chance to read the list unopposed. On the first scan he found his and Draco's names in every advanced group except Apparating and Transfiguration, both of which he was excused from.

"Of course you're in basic for potions, Ron," Harry said, "Snape hates us."

"You're not," Ron complained.

"That's only because Draco is a potions genius and we have to be put in the same groups," Harry replied. "Snape will probably make me sit next to Draco and do nothing the entire time in case I blow something up. Look at what he did this week. And as for Medical Magic," he added, "you know Madam Pomfrey said some people have an aptitude and others don't. You're in advanced for Flying, Offensive, Shielding and Duelling and I think those are the most important for defending Hogwarts."

That seemed to mollify Ron a bit, but Harry didn't expect that to be it.

"Ordinary for Potions?" came from Hermione. "That man!"

Harry hadn't spotted that, he'd been more focused on Ron. Snape was outdoing himself in nastiness; everyone knew Hermione was up there with Draco when it came to potions.

"Oh," Hermione said before she really got going.

Harry looked back at the sheet just in time to see Hermione's name glitter and vanish from the ordinary group for potions and reappear in the advanced one.

"Looks like Dumbledore or Professor McGonagall agreed with you," Harry said and grinned at his friend.

"Wouldn't be the Hogwarts we know and love if Snape and McGonagall weren't arguing about something," Seamus commented.

That much was very true. However, Harry was more worried about the general atmosphere of the room as everyone found out what classes they had been assigned to. No one liked being told they weren't the best, but Gryffindors definitely didn't like being told they were the worst, even though it wasn't like that at all.

All the summer classes were advanced beyond what they were learning in school. Even the basic groups, apart possibly for Snape's, would be doing things above the normal curriculum. It was obvious people were forgetting that.

"Bloody Slytherins had taken all the top places," he heard someone mutter.

[We need to head this off,] he said to Draco.

[Agreed.]

[Any ideas?]

[Not off the top of my head.]

They needed something to take everyone's mind off the classes. Once they were all used to the idea and the classes started he was sure everyone would remember that basic wasn't anything of the sort.

[How about a party?] he asked.

[You want the throw a party?] Draco sounded unsure.

[In the Room of Requirement,] Harry said as the idea began to grow in his head. [The house elves will help I'm sure and I know Seamus has something we can play music on.]

[Inviting everyone I assume?]

[Of course,] Harry said. [What do you think?]

[Could work,] Draco agreed after a few moments.

[Great,] Harry said.

[Woah,] Draco said before Harry could do anything, [don't you think we should ask permission first?]

[It'll be too late,] Harry said, he knew his house well, [need to nip this in the bud. We can ask permission later, I'm sure Albus will approve.]

Draco frowned for a moment, but then nodded.

[You're right,] he said, [go to it.]

Harry didn't hesitate, he stepped up onto the coffee table.

"Hey, Gryffindor," he called.

Everyone turned towards him.

"I have an idea."

"Uh-oh," someone said, which at least caused a laugh.

"I know some of you aren't happy about your class placements, but remember all of this is advanced compared to what we normally do," he said, "and I know just how to cheer all of us up. A party before we have to get down to the real work."

He saw a couple of faces brighten immediately and then people looked at each other and slowly the enthusiasm spread.

"Where and when?" Colin Creevey asked.

"Room of Requirement, about six?" Harry asked everyone in general. "Seamus is in charge of music, Draco, me, Ron and Hermione will make sure there is food."

"Oi," Seamus said, "who said I was coming?"

"It's a party," was all Harry said and made everyone laugh.

Seamus had never missed a party in his life.

"Okay," Seamus said, "y'got me there."

"See you all at six then," Harry said and jumped down off the table.

"Good thinking, Harry," Hermione congratulated him.

"Yeah, just what we need," Ron agreed.

"But what do you think they're going to say when they realise you're inviting the Slytherins along with everyone else?" Hermione asked.

Harry preferred not to think too hard about that.

* * * 

It never ceased to amaze Draco quite how excited the house elves always were to help "Harry Potter". When Harry had asked them if they could help with the party they had gone into a complete tizzy of joy. Even the Room of Requirement seemed to like Harry more than the rest of them.

Harry had walked up and down in the corridor, thinking hard for a few moments, and when they'd opened the door they had found a room done out in streamers and balloons with chairs round the edge and tables set up at one end. It was utterly perfect.

Not that Draco could argue with Hogwarts playing favourites, Harry was his favourite too.

Dumbledore had, of course, thought it was a marvellous idea as soon as Harry had mentioned it.

The tables were now filled with food and drinks; the house elves had outdone themselves. Seamus had set up at the other end and there was music filling the air every now and then as he adjusted levels. Most people were there already, just chatting and helping themselves to the nibbles while everything got going.

Of course, there was one group still missing.

Earlier in the afternoon, Hermione had gone off to invite the Ravenclaws and Ron had gone to invite the Hufflepuffs, leaving Harry and Draco to talk to the Slytherins.

[They are coming aren't they?] Harry asked.

[Of course, they're just waiting for the right time,] Draco replied, [they all know why we organised this.]

[Of course they do, they're Slytherins,] Harry commented.

Dealing with Slytherins again was such a breath of fresh air for Draco, he didn't have to explain the plots three times over for everyone to get them.

As if on cue, Pansy and the others arrived. Draco had to admit he was impressed how Pansy was ruling the roost with her small band of snakes. Of course that had to be the moment when Seamus turned off the music, leaving the group of newly arrived Slytherins in a very awkward silence.

[My turn,] Harry said and stood up. "Come in," he greeted as Draco held back to let his soulmate work his magic. "Great, we're all here, now we can shut the door. Don't want anyone complaining about the noise."

They had the door wedged open so that everyone could get in and, waving the Slytherins towards to food tables, Harry went to close it. He was doing a very good impression of totally having missed the atmosphere in the room; Draco was impressed. He wasn't impressed with the other pupils, however, because if there was one person who couldn't possibly have missed it, it was Harry.

"Seamus," Draco added his own voice, "where's the bloody music?"

"It's coming, it's coming," Seamus complained back.

* * * 

The party had not exactly started off as the most relaxed evening ever, but with music and food and Butterbeer and some spiked punch that only let seventh years near it, everything loosened up pretty quickly. All in all Harry was pleased, even if it was one in the morning and he, Draco and a few Gryffindors were stuck cleaning up before classes started in the morning.

"Me ole Ma would be proud of the healing power of music and dance," Seamus said from where he was taking apart his sound system.

"And it had nothing to do with the rum at all," Harry replied with a laugh.

Seamus still hadn't managed to turn water into rum, but he did seem to have a direct supply from somewhere.

"Well, that too," Seamus admitted, "but let's not tell anyone that part."

Harry laughed again. He had avoided the punch, but there were plenty of their year who hadn't. There were going to be a couple of hangovers in the first classes in the morning.

"I think it is far too late for that, Mr Finnegan," said an all too familiar voice.

Harry almost dropped the broom he was using. Professor McGonagall was standing in the doorway, which they had left propped open so they could stack the rubbish.

"I'd really appreciate it if you could overlook what you may or may not have heard, Professor," Seamus said in his best winning tone.

Their head of house lifted one eyebrow at that comment. For a moment Harry thought they were all going to be in trouble, after all the staff had agreed to a party, not to a party with underage drinking, even if it was only a very small amount.

"Perhaps," Professor McGonagall said eventually, "my hearing is not what it used to be."

Harry breathed a sigh of relief.

"However, you all have classes tomorrow, do you realise the time?" she added.

"We're just tidying up then we're off to bed," Hermione said.

"Miss Granger, the house elves would have been perfectly willing to provide such a service," Professor McGonagall pointed out.

"We couldn't do that," Hermione replied, "they were so good with helping to set up the food, it wouldn't be fair to leave them all the mess."

Only Draco had tried to suggest they leave the room for the house elves to clean prior to Professor McGonagall, no one else had been foolish enough to try. Everyone knew Hermione had some very strong views on house elves.

"Very responsible of you," their head of house said, although Harry was pretty sure Professor McGonagall was mentally rolling her eyes. "Nevertheless I must insist you all retire to bed immediately. We cannot have you tired for your first proper summer classes."

"But, Professor..." Hermione started to say.

"Never fear, Miss Granger," Professor McGonagall interrupted her, "the house elves will not be put to any trouble. I mastered housekeeping spells many years ago and it will take me only moments to finish the job you have all so ably started."

There really was no arguing with that. It boggled Harry's mind to think of his head of house performing housekeeping spells; they just didn't feel like her thing. However, carrying his broom with him, he followed the others to the door.

"Thank you, Professor," he said, propping the broom near the door.

"It is I who should be thanking all of you," was the surprising reply. "You have all worked very hard to make this summer school a success. Now off to bed with all of you."

Chapter Text

Sitting in the corner watching a whole class of people learning to Apparate was not the most pleasant of experiences for Harry, in fact it was downright nasty. Each time one of the class disappeared and reappeared he felt the universe shudder, which sent shockwaves through him, and although no longer debilitating, they were very unpleasant.

It was the second week of the real classes after they had been sorted into their groups and so far the classes were turning out to be challenging, but kind of fun, mostly. This was the second time Harry had sat through an Apparating class. It wasn't the Advanced group, because Draco was in that one and they had both agreed it was better if Draco did not try anything complicated when it came to Apparating while Harry was under duress. He stayed well away from that class and did his very best to pretend he couldn't sense anything through Draco.

After being in the Great Hall only fifteen minutes he was not sure how much more he could take, and Draco, who was sitting in on Professor McGonagall's Animagus class, even though he did not really need to, had told him it was time to give up at least twice. He had made it longer than the previous try, at least. Last time his maximum stay at any one time had been seven minutes and twenty seconds, with very long breaks in between. He was determined to do better this time.

Moody, who was teaching the class, had been sending concerned glances his way for the last two minutes, and Moody was not a man who normally did concerned. If the headache and growing nausea were anything to go by then Harry suspected he was deathly pale and wincing at the slightest sound, let alone when someone actually Apparated; however, he was not about to give up yet.

This was after all about building his tolerance to the familiar form of travel and he had promised himself at least twenty minutes. Until then he was staying put, even if it meant heaving up his breakfast as soon as he left the room. With this in mind he gave Moody an encouraging smile as the man looked at him yet again, and settled back to reinforce his mental barriers for what seemed like the hundredth time.

His control was beginning to slip and the magic in the room was becoming more and more visible, but he was determined to tough it out. After reading up on the subject rather than just reading about how to do it, Harry had discovered that Apparating was in essence a matter of blasting a hole in the fabric of space-time, as the Muggles liked to call it, converting yourself into energy, projecting yourself through your hole before it closed and then reassembling yourself at the other end.

The reassembly was really the tricky part, requiring a firm sense of self for the spell to work with. Knowing how Apparating worked had left Harry surprised that more wizards and witches didn't splinch themselves. The whole spell was very complicated, which was why it was difficult to learn, and Harry was sure there had to be a better way of doing it.

For a start, as he watched a bright burst of magic surround yet another member of the class and felt the universe shudder as the explosion hit it, he decided that if nothing else the whole blasting a hole was messy, dangerous and could not possibly be the only way of going about the entire business.

It was the blasting part that made Hogwarts' wards and places like it impervious to Apparating; the knife point of magic required could easily be diverted and spread out making it useless. If someone tried to Apparate into Hogwarts without opening the wards, or from place to place inside the structure it would simply be a huge waste of magic as the school absorbed the power and defused the spell. The way Harry pictured it was like a jet of water hitting a sponge; the jet would become a spray and most would be absorbed and some redirected with much less force.

Blowing a hole in something was really rather an unsophisticated bit of magic to go with the complex and delicate spell for converting a person's atoms, and not only did it grate on Harry's magical senses, but it offended his sensibilities as well. Draco had laughed his arse off when Harry had let that piece of information slip the first time and called him a spell snob, but he couldn't help it if now he could appreciate the finer points of magic. It wasn't as if he was against using a good blast of power every now and then, but the combination of something so delicate and something so blatant set his teeth on edge even before he felt the repercussions.

He watched and cringed as two more members of the class tried their hand at moving a couple of feet and wished he could think of another way for this to work. He mused on the problem while watching Moody give one of the girls a lecture on having nearly splinched herself. It occurred to him that the whole process would be much easier on those doing it, as well as the universe, if the transmission of energy could be achieved along another line.

A hole was the obvious thing to poke anything through, but if there was another way of linking two points in space and time that was not as destructive, it would surely take less magic and make less of a reverberation through the universe. The floo network was in essence a whole set of magical conduits, now if only it was possible to set something similar up in general space, it would make life so much easier.

He thought about it, picturing the type of thing he was thinking about in his mind, and since Moody was still talking, he lowered his barriers slightly to see if he could see anything remotely resembling it in the room. At first he saw nothing except the usual threads and pools of magic in the surrounding area, and he was ready to put his musings to the back of his mind and shield again when he shifted his mindset again.

He wasn't sure where the idea came from, but, suddenly, as if he'd just opened his eyes on the world for the first time, he perceived it differently.

The universe was not matter, it was energy; in many different forms undoubtedly, but nevertheless energy. What was more was that it was old energy, never destroyed, only converted, and as his mind grasped at the concept he recognised that energy had memory. Almost as if his mind was waking up the same way it had done when he first saw magic, he perceived that where energy had touched energy it maintained a connection. At a fundamental level the whole universe was connected and it was rather a mind blowing thought.

Dragging himself to his feet he decided he needed some air as possibility after possibility flowed into his head taking his breath away. All it would take was finding the connection between the two places; where you were coming from and where you were going to, and then transferring yourself would be easy. As he staggered out of the door his surroundings began showing him their connections and it was all too much.

Before he had gone more than a few steps he fell over and rolling onto his back he stared up blankly as the world became a glaring mass of pinpricks of light.

* * * 

Draco copied the diagram Professor McGonagall had just drawn in the air with her wand. Harry had passed his entire knowledge of the Animagus transformation to him in the blink of an eye, but McGonagall had spent a lifetime studying the subject and had some very interesting information Draco was finding fascinating. Just because he could transform did not mean he knew everything there was to know and he was finding the lessons very interesting.

Ignoring the discomfort coming from Harry was becoming more difficult as his soulmate became more agitated, but he was doing his best. Extracting the promise from Harry to leave after twenty minutes had been quite a challenge as well, but with a little bit of emotional blackmail and a good dose of reverse psychology he had extracted the assurance from his very Gryffindor lover.

How Harry had survived to be eleven and become a wizard, let alone after that, baffled Draco; but then again how any Gryffindor made it out of childhood was the great mystery for all Slytherins to solve.

He was halfway down his page when he dropped his quill and stood up rapidly. The feelings of alarm and complete shock from Harry were very sudden and almost overwhelming.

"Mr Malfoy, is everything all right?" Professor McGonagall asked urgently as he just stood there trying to work out what was going on.

"Um," was the most coherent response Draco could manage as he tried to deal with the unfamiliar sensations coming from Harry, "I ..."

It was nothing he had felt before, not even when he had first woken up and discovered he was connected to his soulmate.

"Harry," Draco tried again, but failed to find very much coherence, "have to go."

After which he turned to the door and literally ran out of the room. Information began flooding down their link as if Harry couldn't stop it and Draco skidded into a wall as his vision flashed out and then in again. This was like the incident in the first Animagus class only about a hundred times worse, and it didn't seem to be about to stop. With a groan he pushed himself off the wall; he needed to reach Harry and he needed to reach him now.

His logical mind flipped out for a moment and his less coherent, but at that moment very much more active, instinctive thoughts gained the upper hand. They had just been presented with a huge amount of information and they used it. Draco really had no idea what he was doing, but grabbing at something he did not fully comprehend he sort of, but not quite, Apparated.

Stunned amazement could wait until later as he fell to his knees beside his motionless soulmate. Harry was lying on his back staring directly upwards with an unfocused expression which would have suggested he was looking at nothing, if Draco had not known the truth. Without even thinking he reached out his hands and placed them on either of Harry's shoulders, at which point it was as if he'd flicked a switch.

Harry reared up off the floor with a huge breath as if he had been dragged back from drowning, and came to a stop in a sitting position. The deluge of information into Draco's brain stopped in the same instant allowing his more coherent thoughts access to his mental capacity. As Harry turned to him he looked his lover in the eye and instantly they shared the experience together in a bid to understand what had just happened.

The dread took hold of both of them at exactly the same time.

[Oh Merlin,] Harry voiced their combined fear, [Hogwarts is defenceless.]

Chapter Text

Summer classes be damned, Harry and Draco had abandoned everything else and gone straight to the library. They spent all morning frantically searching for anything to do with Harry's revelation. It seemed so obvious that someone had to have investigated it before. There had to be a way to protect Hogwarts.

"What on earth are you two doing?"

Hermione's voice made Harry look up from the huge tome he was trying to read and barely making head or tail of. The language was definitely not modern English.

"What does it look like," Draco said, without taking his nose out of the book he had; "trying to find some information."

"Well, tell me what you're looking for and I can help," Hermione said and Harry was reminded again of what a good friend she was.

[Do we dare?] he asked.

[Not out loud,] Draco replied. [someone might overhear.]

[I could write it down,] Harry suggested.

[Even worse. Just write down that we can't tell her yet and I'll make something up for possible eavesdroppers.]

"It's to do with Harry's problem with Apparating," Draco said out loud as Harry scrabbled for a quill. "He had a very bad reaction this morning and so we came to see if we could find anything that might help."

Harry could feel Hermione's eyes on him as he wrote, but she didn't ask what he was doing.

"Do you think there is some way Hecatemae have shielded themselves in the past that we've lost?" Hermione asked. "I would have thought that was something the department would have kept on record."

"You'd think so, wouldn't you," Draco replied, "but Hilde says they don't have anything. It may be that it's because Harry hasn't been brought up to know how to shield from a young age, so he's susceptible, but we had hoped there might be something we had missed before."

Harry held up his message.

'I discovered something,' it read. 'Can't explain now, too dangerous. Have to keep it a secret from everyone, sorry.'

"Have you tried the Restricted Section yet?" Hermione asked, taking the parchment from Harry and borrowing his quill.

'Find any useful information?' she wrote.

'No.' Harry wrote back.

"Not yet," Draco continued the verbal conversation.

'You should speak to Dumbledore,' Hermione jotted down. 'His office is secure and if it's that dangerous he needs to know.'

"Maybe you could try later," she said.

[She has a point,] Draco agreed as he read the note.

"Good idea," Harry said, screwing up the note and putting it in his pocket; he would burn it once they were out of the Library.

"Right now, though," Hermione said, "you really should come to lunch unless you want the whole school talking about you."

The last thing they needed was more attention.

"Good point," Draco said. "We'll just get these books to a safe place and we'll be out."

"Thanks, Hermione," Harry said and she nodded at him.

* * * 

"Gentlemen," Dumbledore greeted as Harry all but dragged Draco into the headmaster's study, "to what do I owe this pleasure?"

Harry knew he was being a little irrational, but the fact that Hogwarts was wide open for an attack was rather playing on his mind. It was all he had been able to think about over lunch; the ideas just going round and round in his head.

The fact that Death Eaters could pop through the wards at their own convenience if Voldemort even suspected what he had found out was not an easy burden to bear, and he was very worried. Closing the door and activating the silencing spells around the room which Dumbledore used when he did not wish to be overheard, Harry walked right up to the headmaster's desk with Draco close behind.

The look of slight surprise on Dumbledore's face reminded him that it was possibly impolite to activate someone else's wards when most people weren't even supposed to realise they were there, but Harry felt he was justified in his caution.

"Sorry," he apologised never-the-less, "but this could be disastrous."

"Please, sit down," Dumbledore offered politely, "and tell me everything."

Two chairs appeared out of thin air as the headmaster waved his arm and Draco dragged Harry into one and then sat in the other even though Harry would have preferred to stand. Their search in the library had proved one thing; no one else seemed to have come up with this idea or have written anything down about it, but Harry was still very agitated about the whole thing.

"Harry had a revelation this morning," he was very glad as Draco started the explanation as he tried to gather his thoughts. "It makes us feel somewhat less secure about the safety of Hogwarts."

Dumbledore sat forward in his chair, placed both arms on the table and brought his fingers together into a point in a very thoughtful gesture.

"Please," he said in a concerned, sober manner, "go on."

"It is possible to Apparate through the wards," Harry said anxiously; "well not exactly Apparate, but as good as. Draco's already done it so we know it's not just a theory."

He took a deep breath trying to stop the overwhelming feeling of helplessness that the situation caused in him as he explained it. His home was threatened and he didn't like that at all.

"I was watching the Apparating class," he continued more calmly, "and I've always said there has to be a better way of going about it. Well I was thinking about it and I thought that if you didn't have to blast the hole to travel through it would take much less magic and be less destructive. So I tried to figure out some other way of connecting two places and then I saw them; the connections; they're everywhere and all you have to do is touch them and you can use them like pipes."

Draco's hand tightened on his and he was glad of the comfort. There was no protection against people travelling this way; no one had ever thought how to set up wards against it.

"And how does one find these strands?" Dumbledore asked reasonably.

"They're just there," Harry replied honestly. "They aren't even magical, they're just energy."

The headmaster smiled at him kindly, which made Harry think either Dumbledore had missed the point or the man didn't understand the gravity of what he was saying.

"If they are so obvious, then why, my dear boy," Dumbledore said warmly, "has no one else ever seen fit to mention them before?"

That rather brought Harry up short as the headmaster's words threw up a whole new angle, which in their panic neither he nor Draco had considered.

"But they're there," he said earnestly; "Draco used one from outside the Transfiguration classroom. He was outside the Apparating bubble, so was I, the wards were fully active."

Dumbledore smiled again and stood up, slowly coming around the desk.

"Harry," the headmaster said warmly, "you and through you Draco, have a unique view of the world. I would hazard the reason that no one has seen fit to make use of these," Dumbledore paused, "connections," the headmaster continued after a moment's thought, "is that none but you are aware they exist and, hence, none but you may employ their usefulness."

Harry honestly hadn't thought of that.

[Do you think?] he asked Draco.

[I don't know, none of the books had anything,] Draco replied.

"But they're right there," Harry said, unable to just believe what the headmaster had said.

"And so was gravity, but it took Sir Isaac Newton to explain how it worked," Dumbledore said. "I believe it was Einstein who said 'Imagination is more important than knowledge' and I believe this may be a case in point. Unless I am very much mistaken, these connections you speak of are not a phenomenon which has been investigated in our world."

First of all Harry had to get his head round one of the finest wizards in the world quoting Muggle scientists, then he digested the rest of the headmaster's words.

"You've never heard of anything that might use them?" Draco checked.

"Nothing," Dumbledore replied, "and I believe you have both been in the library most of the morning. I assume you found nothing either?"

Harry shook his head; nothing had come close.

"But I know now," he said, even though that confirmation was a comfort, "and knowledge has a nasty habit of spreading. What if all it takes is a wave of a wand and there they are for everyone to see."

"Quite," Dumbledore agreed with a nod.

[At least we're not going totally bonkers,] Harry commented to Draco.

"Perhaps, if I might be so bold as to suggest a strategy?" the headmaster said after a few moments.

"We would be glad of any suggestions," Draco replied.

"It would seem to me that the danger from this discovery comes from the inability to block it," Dumbledore said. "Hence I deduce the best way forward would be to investigate it so that a method of warding against it may be devised."

"You want us to figure out how to protect Hogwarts?" Harry asked. "But we know nothing about wards."

"And I would normally suggest the bringing in of an expert to assist," the headmaster agreed, "however, I believe that the fewer who know about this issue the better, correct?"

Harry nodded vigorously.

"Then I believe, since you are the only two who understand this phenomenon, you should investigate it and attempt to come up with a strategy," Dumbledore continued. "When such a strategy has been devised, then there are certain individuals who I would trust to help to construct a true defence. Although Hogwarts is always my first priority I feel I must point out, the Ministry is protected by similar defences and, as such is equally open to the same vulnerability."

[Didn't even think of that,] Harry admitted. [Merlin's balls, why did I have to see this?]

[Forewarned is forearmed,] was all Draco said.

Chapter Text

The summer classes were going well, but the search for whoever had sabotaged the first week was not. Their little group of conspirators had been trying to find any information, but there didn't seem to be any to find and, given how the Aurors were also still scurrying around, Draco doubted they knew any more either.

They were in Advanced Shielding when the saboteur struck again.

Remus was demonstrating a particularly complex shielding spell that could hide the user from all forms of magical detection when a small box on the teaching desk exploded with green sparks. When they hit Remus' shimmering shield it shuddered so hard, Remus' wand fell right out of his hand and rolled away, through the quivering shield.

However, the shield did not disappear. In fact it went as green as the sparks and turned glasslike. Draco had never seen anything quite like it.

"What on earth?" Periculum said.

Inside the shield, Remus reached out and touched it, pulling his hand back rapidly as if stung. Remus said something, but it seemed the shield was now impervious to sound.

"Finite Incantatum," Periculum said and pointed his wand at the shield.

The counter spell bounced off harmlessly and had no effect on the barrier what so ever.

"Don't panic, Class," Periculum said, "I am sure this is just a prank."

[Prank my arse,] Harry said and, as if his words were prophetic, the green shield gave a shudder and shrank a good two inches in diameter.

[I wholeheartedly agree,] Draco said. [Can you see what's going on?]

He felt Harry lowering his barriers and then he was treated to a mental recreation of what Harry was actually seeing. The magic in the shield looked like it had been turned to a solid.

The most significant thing, however, was that there was a pattern in the magic, a pattern that looked like it was warring with itself. Draco had never seen it used in the way it was being used to alter the shield, but he did know the principle.

[A second spell had been introduced to the first,] Draco said. [The two spells are polar opposites and so are causing a kind of stasis. The same principle can be used to sure up magical buildings that are on the verge of collapse so they can be restored.]

[So if we unbalance the spells the whole thing should fall apart?] Harry checked.

[That's the theory.]

The shield shuddered and shrank again. Remus wasn't quite quick enough and ended up clutching his arm.

"Auror Periculum," Harry said, immediately striding towards the front of the class, "I can fix this."

There was no hesitation in Harry as he played the hero yet again. Hand raised, he reached for the shield, at which point Draco remembered something.

[Don't put magic in,] he told Harry quickly; [it will explode. You need to take it out.]

Harry stopped and stared at the shield. He shared it all with Draco without hesitation and Draco did his best to spot anything that could help.

[There,] he said, coming to stand next to Harry and showing his soulmate what he meant.

There was a point in the pattern where the original spell looked like it had gathered into a small globe. It almost looked like a cork in hole. Harry reached for it.

[No,] Draco said, [it bites, remember.]

The shield shuddered and shrank again.

[No time to worry about that,] Harry said and just grabbed it.

Draco felt pain shoot up his own arm, even though it was Harry that was in contact with the shield. He grabbed for Harry, lending his strength as directly as he could. It wasn't agonising. Unfortunately they were both all too aware what that felt like, but it was painful. Harry's eyes were watering as he tried to grip the globe of magic and only Draco's Malfoy pride was keeping him from the same fate.

Harry was the only person who could treat magic like a physical thing. The forces Harry employed were like nothing any normal wizard could do and they always took Draco's breath away. Watching Harry work was a marvel, even if it hurt.

Once Harry got a proper grip on the globe, that was it. The magic popped out in Harry's hand and the shield dissolved into a thousand harmless sparks, including the part Harry was holding. It was quite pretty really, but Draco was more concerned with something he had just realised.

[That's it,] he decided, [we're going to see Dumbledore, now.]

[Why?] Harry asked.

[Because this is about you,] he said. [Once could have been luck, twice because someone was trying to scare the seventh years, but three times, this is definitely about you.]

[But none of the attacks have been against me,] Harry pointed out.

[I know,] Draco admitted, he hadn't worked that bit out yet; then it hit him like a lightning bolt, [but they were all things you could deal with. Merlin's balls, someone is testing you.]

[What?]

[On the Quidditch pitch you sensed the magical change and fixed it with your unique insight; in Offensive Spells you controlled the magic like no one else could; here you picked the lock of the magic and you were the only one who could see it had a lock in the first place.]

Draco began mentally kicking himself; why hadn't he seen it earlier.

[So this is about me? Again?]

[Love,] Draco replied, [until Voldemort is dead it's always going to be about you and, once the bastard is, I will take great pleasure in making sure it never has to be all about you again.]

They left a confused Remus and an astounded looking Periculum in their wake as Draco dragged Harry out of the room, straight towards the headmaster's office.

* * *

"Sorry to call unannounced," Draco said as Harry let himself be led into Dumbledore's office.

"Always a pleasure, Gentlemen," the headmaster replied, coming out from behind his desk. "What may I do for you today?"

"There's been another one," Harry said.

"Someone sabotaged our shielding class," Draco said. "They set a boobytrap that added to a shield to make it solid and then cause it to shrink."

"That is very advanced magic," Dumbledore said, expression turning serious.

"And it conveniently had a single weakness," Draco went on and Harry just let him.

He could feel his soulmate's mind churning.

"One only Harry could see, one that would have taken anyone else far too long to find," Draco continued.

The way Dumbledore looked at him then, Harry knew the headmaster was following Draco's train of thought.

"Oh, My Dear Boy," Dumbledore said with a shake of his head, "I am so sorry."

"So you agree," Draco said, "this is targeted at Harry?"

Dumbledore nodded and Harry let go any remaining hope that Draco was overreacting.

"It does appear to be an inescapable conclusion," the headmaster agreed. "Please, come and sit down and tell me everything that happened this morning."

It didn't take long to give an account of the device on the desk exploding, how it affected the shield and all the subsequent events. Harry put in everything he knew and Draco explained the rest as Dumbledore listen intently.

"I think someone is testing Harry," Draco finished when they had completed their tale.

Dumbledore touched his chin, nodding slowly.

"I believe you are correct," the headmaster said, "and they are not just testing his abilities."

"What?" Harry asked. "I don't understand."

"Each incident did not simply require your Hecatemus abilities," Dumbledore told him; "it required, in equal measure, an act of heroism."

Harry frowned, he wasn't sure that was right.

"I don't see what you mean," he said.

Draco sighed beside him.

"Harry, love," Draco said, "I know you're used to this kind of thing, but diving on a broom from the top of the pitch to get to the ground in time, was kind of dangerous. To stop the magic in the courtyard you had to call it straight to you, which, if you hadn't been able to control it, could have hurt you considerably. Then today you had to cause yourself a lot of pain to unbalance the shield. Every single incident has put you in a position where you have to take a risk or sacrifice something to solve it."

The way Dumbledore was looking at him made Harry think Draco had a point. He really hadn't thought of it that way.

"Us," he added, not wanting to minimise Draco contribution, "I had to cause us considerable pain."

Draco patted him on the hand in reply.

Of course if this really was all about him, Harry could only come to one decision.

"If this is because of me," he said, "then I'll have to stop taking the summer classes. I can't put other people in the line of fire, just because someone has it out for me."

He was enjoying the summer school and learning a lot, but he didn't see any other way to deal with the problem.

"I agree," Draco said. "Who knows what will come next."

Dumbledore inclined his head in acknowledgement, but did not immediately agree.

"If you gentlemen are willing," he said, "I believe I may have an alternative suggestion."

"We're listening," Draco replied.

"So far all the magic used against you has been very sophisticated," Dumbledore told them. "No matter what we led the school to believe, the cancellation charm which negated the safeguards on the Quidditch pitch was highly complex. As was the charm on Miss Parkinson's target and the device used today. No ordinary wizard or witch would be capable of such intricate magic.

"Also, each incident has been meticulously planned. I do not believe this is a Death Eater plot, simply by the nature of the incidents."

"More people would have been hurt," Harry said, catching on.

Dumbledore nodded again.

"The Ministry," Draco said with a certainty that belied any argument.

"I fear I have come to the same conclusion," Dumbledore agreed.

"But why would the Ministry..?" Harry started to say.

"Fudge."

Draco was clearly adamant.

"But would he..." Harry said and then paused. "What am I saying, of course he would. But I don't see how that changes things."

"There are many Ministry employees on Hogwarts grounds," Dumbledore said, "most of whom I would be willing to personally vouch for, however, there are a few who were, shall we say, forced upon me."

[Now there's a shock,] Draco said.

"I greatly suspect we are dealing with an Unspeakable," the headmaster went on. "Only they would have the capabilities these incidents require. To rid the school of this person and the Ministry's overbearing presence, we must first trap them, and then prove where their orders came from."

"And the only way to do that is if I am still involved," Harry concluded. "But what if people get hurt? I might not be quick enough one time."

"I find that most doubtful," Dumbledore said with a small smile, "however, I share your concerns about the other students, so I would suggest an alternative stratagem. We set up individual classes for both of you. That will allow our saboteur opportunity to 'test' you further, while removing the danger from the other students."

Draco was already nodding.

"We can use the cover story that it's because Harry's unique abilities require special training," Draco said, "but also let a rumour circulate that it's really because I went ballistic at Harry being in danger and demanded he be removed from the line of fire."

"An interesting premise," Dumbledore said; "most ingenious."

[You're going to look like a right prat,] Harry pointed out.

[And you'll look like a brow beaten soulmate,] Draco replied, [but it will mean the saboteur won't suspect that we've worked it out. And I did just storm out of a class, dragging you with me.]

Harry could not fault Draco's logic.

"Okay," he said, "but we're explaining to Ron and Hermione and Pansy or this could wreck the house unity we have going on. With them on side we can smooth it call over."

"Agreed," Draco said. [I think I may have you better trained than I thought.]

Harry snorted at that.

Chapter Text

"Okay, what is this all about?" Pansy asked as she walked into the classroom they had chosen for the clandestine meeting.

It was nearly midnight and they'd all snuck out separately, having arranged the gathering by note.

"Harry and I are leaving the summer classes for a while," Draco said, once Ron had closed the door.

"So the sabotage is aimed at you?" Pansy said, looking directly at Harry.

He nodded.

"But that's not how we're going to spin it," he said.

"If the person doing this realises we're on to them they might just stop," Draco said.

"And that's bad why?" Ron asked.

"Because we want to catch them," Harry replied.

"We think this is Ministry sanctioned," Draco added.

"Fudge," Hermione said.

It seemed they were all of a like mind when it came to Ministry incompetence.

"Merlin's balls," Pansy said as if she was just realising something, "they're testing their hero."

"That was our conclusion too, Pans," Draco said with a nod.

"The moronic fools," was Pansy's conclusion on that.

"Fudge tried to have my wand broken once," Harry said. "He's been petrified of me ever since I tried to tell him Voldemort was back."

"He probably wet himself when he found out what you are," Pansy said, shaking her head.

"So you think it's one of the Aurors?" Hermione asked, pulling them back onto the main subject.

"The headmaster thinks one of them is an Unspeakable undercover," Harry said.

"That would make sense," Hermione agreed. "The saboteur has been using hideously complicated magic."

"I thought Dumbledore arranged everyone though," Ron pointed out. "Didn't he check them?"

"He said there were a few who were forced on him," Harry revealed. "I get the feeling he had to compromise to make the summer school happen."

"Also typical of Fudge," Hermione said.

Harry wasn't going to disagree with that.

"So the official story will be we are having our own classes because of Harry's unique abilities," Draco said.

"But?" Pansy asked.

"We will also be circulating the rumour that it's actually because I went totally ballistic after the latest incident and demanded Harry be taken out of the line of fire," Draco added.

Pansy lifted her eyebrows and slowly nodded.

"Makes sense," she said, "and we're here because?"

"The atmosphere is very tense because of what's been happening," Harry stepped in now. "If it looks like I'm being dragged out of things because of what the Gryffindors might see as Slytherin cowardice, it could wreck any peace we have going on at the summer school. We want you to make sure that doesn't happen."

Pansy looked over at Hermione and Ron, who were looking back at her. It wasn't as if everything was all sweetness and light between them yet, but the open hostility was gone.

"While you two paint targets on your backs, I suppose?" Hermione asked after a moment.

"Dumbledore has a plan," Draco said. "Don't worry, I'm not about to let Harry endanger himself any more than necessary."

"Good luck with that," Ron muttered.

"And so far all the incidents have been to test me, not hurt me," Harry added. "But do you think you can pull off your part?"

The three shared glances again.

"We'll have to plan," Pansy said eventually, "but I'm sure we can come up with something."

That was all Harry needed to know.

* * *

It wasn't announced to the school that Harry and Draco would no longer be in the usual classes, but everyone knew by breakfast time. The other rumour took a little longer, but Hermione mentioned it to Lavender under the pretext of explaining that Draco couldn't help being protective; it was instinctive now, and that was it.

For two days the couple had individual lessons, from the same instructors, in the History of Magic classroom. Draco was impressed that Harry managed to keep up the pretence quite so well, even with those people they trusted, just in case anyone was watching. He himself spent most of the time scowling and pretending to be paranoid.

Only a handful of people knew the truth.

What even fewer people knew was that the classroom was being watched twenty four hours a day with more than just eyes.

It was well known that, as headmaster, Dumbledore had a unique and interesting relationship with Hogwarts itself; one that could not be boasted by many in the school's history. It still has its secrets, but what no one had realised was that some enchantments which would have been blocked by the school to everyone else, were allowed to Dumbledore.

There were privacy wards on the school to prevent anyone from outside from spying on those inside, or any inside from spying on their fellows. The Marauder's Map was looking more and more like a work of pure luck or complete genius to Draco, because he had looked it up and no one was supposed to be able to use the Homonculous Charm in Hogwarts. He had to wonder if Dumbledore had had a hand in it somehow, because the headmaster was allowed to use such magic.

The History of Magic classroom now had several charms on it for the simple purpose of detecting and recording anyone entering or leaving it, as well as what they did in between. Harry liked to call it magical CCTV, not that Draco was sure what CCTV was and it was Muggle, so he refused to ask.

Harry also insisted on being part of the team keeping watch, at least for a few hours in the evenings. That was why he and Draco were hiding in the adjacent classroom with Tonks and the Marauder's map neatly hidden between them. Harry had been adamant that the map remain as secret as possible, even from Tonks.

The previous night had been easier, they had been stationed in the classroom with Remus. Since they both had to appear as normal during the day, they couldn't do more than a few hours, but Draco had not been surprised that Harry was adamant about being part of things. What had shocked him was how Dumbledore had looked to him and immediately agreed as soon as he had also approved.

As far as anyone not in the know about the map was concerned, Harry was using his abilities to see if he could spot the magical signature he had seen running away from the Quidditch pitch. That was true as well, but Draco had his eyes glued to the map. It really was an astonishing piece of magic.

Harry was sat on one of the desks, eyes closed, concentrating, Draco was right next to him.

[Someone's coming this way,] Draco said.

[Where?] Harry asked.

[Towards the dungeons,] Draco replied.

[Who is it?] was Harry's next question.

[That's the problem,] Draco said, [the name is blank.]

Harry opened his eyes.

[That's impossible.]

Draco pointed at the moving dot.

[Must be a charm the map was never designed to see through,] Draco said.

He felt the disquiet that caused in Harry.

[We should ask Tonks,] Harry said.

[We'll probably have to show her the map,] Draco pointed out.

[She's family,] was all Harry replied to that.

"Tonks," Draco said, "someone's coming."

"Is it our runner?" Tonks asked, immediately coming to attention with no sign of her usual clumsiness.

"I don't know," Harry said, "I haven't got them yet."

"They're on this," Draco said, lifting up the map.

"I wondered what you had there," Tonks said, walking over.

She whistled when could see it properly.

"I'm guessing no one knows you have this," she said.

"You are among a select few," Draco revealed. "The thing is, this dot should have a name. Know any spells that could hide someone from something that can see through the Animagus transformation, Polyjuice and invisibility cloaks?"

Tonks looked even more impressed.

"Did Dumbledore make this?" she asked.

"No, it was my father, Remus, Sirius and Peter," Harry revealed.

Draco was pretty sure Tonks went from impressed to awed.

"Wow," she said, "mega work. I can think of a couple of spells that might work, but they're on the restricted list."

"If it's an Unspeakable they could have dispensation though?" Draco asked.

Tonks nodded.

Harry closed his eyes again and Draco could feel his soulmate reaching out with his peculiar mind.

"Got them," Harry said, "but there's something confusing their magical signature. Must be the same spell."

"Time to alert the others then," Tonks said and swiped her wand.

Dobby appeared just about instantly.

They had decided to use Dobby as a messenger because House elves had total freedom in Hogwarts and it was possible any other methods they might have been able to use could have been detected by an Unspeakable. Given what the saboteur had pulled off already they were clearly incredibly skilled.

"Give the alert please, Dobby," Tonks said and the house elf bobbed his head once before disappearing.

Dumbledore was in a store room the other side of the classroom with Professor McGonagall and Remus was stationed in the corridor under Harry's invisibility cloak. Other members of the Order were due to take over in an hour or so, but it looked like they would not be needed.

Dobby popped back in only a few seconds later.

"Professor Dumbledore is saying he sees the intruder too," Dobby reported. "We is to wait until they is in the classroom."

"Thanks, Dobby," Draco said and the elf looked very pleased with himself.

"Everyone quiet," Tonks said and Draco looked down to see the dot nearing their position.

There were locking charms on the classroom, one of the safeguards Dumbledore had implemented for increased security. All the places where classes were to be held were locked where possible now, until they were needed.

[They've stopped,] Harry said.

[I can see them on the map,] Draco said.

They were right outside the door to the History of Magic classroom.

[They're doing magic,] Harry added, which was something Draco couldn't see.

It was only seconds before the person was on the move once more.

[Well those charms took them a long time to break,] Draco commented.

He would have been impressed with the person's skill if they hadn't already endangered Harry's life three times. That would give him a very dim view of anyone and he wasn't the forgiving sort.

"Stay behind me," Tonks whispered.

Draco nodded, putting the map in his pocket as Harry stood up.

Thanks to some very recent TLC, the door to the room they were in opened completely silently. The corridor outside was dark, but there was light shining from the crack in the door of the other classroom. Whoever it was, wasn't being that careful; they had left the door open.

[Wait,] Harry said suddenly and Draco reached out the grab Tonk's arm before she could go any further.

Tonk turned to them with a frown.

[What is it?] Draco asked.

[Door has extra magic on it,] Harry said, [I think it's a boobytrap for anyone investigating.]

"Trap," Draco mouthed at Tonks and pointed at the door.

Her frown cleared and she nodded. Just the other side of the door there was the slightest of rustles and Remus' head appeared, as if floating. He seemed to have paused when they did. Tonks made a hand signal at him and he nodded.

Draco made a mental note to ask about that later. Clearly there were some methods of communication they were not privy to.

Tonks pointed to herself and then the door before holding up three fingers.

[We follow her on three,] Draco said, just to make sure Harry got it.

He received a glare for his trouble, but he was not above being positive about these things.

Tonks held up one finger, then another, and then the third.

"Finite Incantatem," she said, wand pointed at the door and something went up in a puff of smoke.

Then they all charged in.

At the same time the lights went up and Dumbledore and McGonagall appeared with wands in hands. The figure standing next to the one of the desks near the windows froze.

"You are outnumbered and surrounded," Dumbledore spoke. "Be so kind as to turn around."

The man in question, because it was definitely a man was still for several seconds, but eventually did as he was asked, wand held pointing up in surrender.

"Duggan," Tonks said, clearly shocked.

"That's impossible," Draco added.

Duggan had been on a broom when the first incident had taken place; he could not have done it.

"Would you care to explain what you are doing, Mr Duggan?" the headmaster said.

Draco could see something behind the man on the desk. It was small and it was very hard to look at.

"Checking security," Duggan said, as if it should be obvious.

"No one is authorised to check security in this room," Dumbledore said.

"I took the initiative," Duggan replied. "Someone clearly has it in for Harry."

It almost made sense, almost. If Draco hadn't seen the map he might have believed the Auror.

"That's not Duggan," Harry said and surprised them all, even Draco.

"Of course I'm me," the other man protested.

"You may be trying to hide," Harry replied, "but I can still see who you aren't. You aren't Duggan. Now do you want to drop the act or are you going to make this difficult?"

Draco almost thought Harry was hoping for the latter.

"Polyjuice?" Professor McGonagall suggested.

"Or another manner of shape change," Dumbledore said. "We will have to determine which."

Then to Draco's shock, Dumbledore simply lifted his wand and said, "Stupefy."

Their saboteur looked equally surprised as he dropped to the floor without the remotest chance to defend himself.

"We will take this to my office," the headmaster said, all trace of the bumbling old man hidden beneath the role of leader of the Order of the Phoenix.

"I need to secure the scene for evidence," Tonks said before everyone moved off, "and we need to know what he was up to."

"I will assist Tonks," Professor McGonagall added, "just in case there are any nasty surprises."

Dumbledore nodded and the decision was made.

Chapter Text

Harry refused to take his eyes off the wizard who still looked like Duggan. Remus did the honours of moving their unknown saboteur, while Dumbledore led and everyone else followed along. Back in the headmaster's office they were met by Snape and Shacklebolt.

"That can't be Duggan," Shacklebolt said as soon as he saw the prisoner, "I just left him."

"Yes, we are aware of that, thank you, Kingsley," Dumbledore replied. "Harry provided the information."

Snape glared at Harry for that, but he was used to ignoring the head of Slytherin when the man was in one of his moods. They had declared peace, but there was still plenty of friction.

Remus set their prisoner in a waiting chair and Dumbledore then bound the man with magical ropes. Taking a quick peek, Harry was sure nothing short of the headmaster removing the spell was going to get the saboteur out of the bindings. They positively glowed in his vision.

"As you requested, Headmaster," Snape said in typical Slytherin fashion and handed over two small bottles.

"Thank you, Severus," Dumbledore said. "Remus, if you will hold our prisoner's head."

Remus didn't so much as hesitate and lifted the unconscious man's chin before opening his mouth. The headmaster efficiently poured the contents of one of the bottles down their prisoner's throat. Almost instantly he began to lose his current shape, skin bubbling and moving as all too familiar features began to form.

"Fitzsimons," Draco said, voice dripping with loathing.

Harry placed a hand on his soulmate's arm. Draco had not liked Fitzsimons since the incident in the first class, but Harry could feel the boiling rage his soulmate was now barely controlling.

"I thought he only came back to Hogwarts when extra Aurors were drafted in," Harry said, because he knew all too well when the man had originally left.

"I was under a similar impression," Shacklebolt agreed.

"So were we all," Dumbledore agreed. "Harry are you able to recognise Mr Fitzsimons' magical signature from the Quidditch pitch?"

Harry lowered his barriers again, but everything he could see was still jumbled.

"There's something mixing up his signals," he said.

"I should never have let you tell the truth to those Ministry busy bodies after the first incident," Draco said, glaring at the still unconscious man.

"Kingsley, Remus," Dumbledore said, "if you would be so good as to search Mr Fitzsimons."

Harry had never seen such an efficient search as the two men set about their task without the slightest hesitation. They started with spells, which caused Harry to put his barriers back to full strength. Some of the charms Harry had never seen before. Then the pair went in for the manual method. Remus soon pulled an amulet on a chain from under Fitzsimons' clothing.

"This must be it," he said.

Dumbledore stepped forward to investigate and Harry took the chance that there would be no strong magic flying around for a few seconds, to take a look at the amulet as well. The object made his head spin when he tried to stare at it. He had to blink and look away.

[What?] Draco asked immediately. [Are you okay?]

[I took a look at the amulet,] Harry replied. [I'm fine, but it makes my vision go all wobbly when I look at it. I think that's definitely it.]

He shared what he had experience with Draco.

[Some kind of warping charm,] Draco said, [very sophisticated.]

Apparently satisfied, Dumbledore took hold of the amulet himself and lifted it over Fitzsimon's head. As soon as it was no longer on the man's person, Harry could see Fitzsimons magical aura clearly. He still wasn't used to telling unfamiliar people apart using such methods, but he had gone over his memories of the Quidditch pitch a great many times. The magical signature of the person running away was ingrained in his mind.

"It was him," Harry said with a nod.

"Had you not already been in close contact with Fitzsimons?" Snape asked before he could say anything else. "Why did you not recognise him at the time?"

"It doesn't work that way," Draco said even as Harry opened his mouth.

"I seem to unconsciously learn the magical signatures of some people," Harry decided he had to explain, "I'm not quite sure why, but I only met Fitzsimons the once."

"And he proved himself to be useless," Draco added. "None of us thought he would be back."

Surprisingly Snape appeared to accept the explanation without question.

"Time for the other potion, I believe," Dumbledore said, "before we wake Mr Fitzsimons."

"If you are sure, Headmaster," Snape said.

"I am," Dumbledore said with a nod. "However, everyone in this room should be aware, what we have done so far had been perfectly within the law, what I am about to do now is, shall we shall, a much more grey area."

Harry looked around and it didn't look as if anyone in the room cared. Remus even stepped forward to help hold Fitzsimons' head a second time. Dumbledore used the potion and then stepped back, once again pulling out his wand and using Enervate. Fitzsimons' eyes popped open immediately.

"Welcome back, Mr Fitzsimons," the headmaster said.

The Auror blinked once, but otherwise seem unsurprised to have been unmasked.

"Would you really have allowed your fellow Auror to be caught for your crime?" Dumbledore asked.

Fitzsimons smiled.

"You have no proof I was doing anything but my job," the man said.

"Your amulet is gone, Mr Fitzsimons," Dumbledore said, for once, no smile on his own face, which Harry found unsettling. "Harry has already identified you as the person he saw fleeing from the Quidditch pitch. Now if you will dispense with the pretence."

The smile dropped from Fitzsimons' face as well then.

"I stand by my actions," he said.

"You mean testing Harry," Dumbledore said.

"After he failed the first test, I had no choice but to continue," Fitzsimons said. "In such times as these we cannot have a compromised wizard of such power running around."

"What first test?" Harry demanded.

"Wandless defence, you reacted with violence."

Draco actually laughed.

"Merlin, you're more of an idiot than you look," Draco said, tone glacial. "Not only were Harry's actions purely instinctual, they are covered by law because any other of his kind would have reacted in exactly the same way. In fact, Harry could have killed you and been perfectly justified. You attacked him in the same way as if you had been wielding a wand or a sword, you imbecile, but because he is the way he is, he threw you across the room rather than obliterating you where you stood."

That might have been overstating it, but Harry approved of Draco's style. Fitzsimons paled a little, as if the Auror hadn't thought of that.

"Mr Fitzsimons," Dumbledore said and the man's gaze flicked back to the headmaster, "you have been teaching wandless defence to Auror candidates for six years, that is a matter of record. However, the role is part time. All your other activities with the Auror department are restricted. Are you even an Auror?"

Fitzsimons said nothing and Dumbledore raised his wand. Harry felt the headmaster cast something and the way Fitzsimons eyes opened in shock suggested the Auror was privy to its effects. However the man's eyes narrowed quickly.

"That won't work on me, Headmaster," Fitzsimons said.

Dumbledore simply held up the potions bottle he had used earlier.

"I suspect you can guess what was previously in this vessel," the headmaster said.

Fitzsimons eyes went to Snape and then back to Dumbledore. Harry was dying to know what all three already seemed to.

[Merlin's balls,] Draco said, [Omniana.]

[What's that?]

[An incredibly difficult to brew, very illegal potion,] Draco replied. [Snape must be one of the few people in the country capable of producing it. Even I didn't know he was that good.]

[What does it do?]

[It lowers a person's ability to resist a Legilimens,] Draco said, [as well as other things. If someone takes it more than once it can destroy their mind.]

[How did Albus know Fitzsimons hadn't had it before?] Harry asked.

[He didn't,] was all Draco said.

Sometimes Harry forgot Dumbledore had fought in more than one war.

"Ah, so you are an Unspeakable," Dumbledore said, "I suspected as much. I was unaware that particular section of the Department of Mysteries existed."

If that didn't sound ominous, Harry didn't know what did.

"Who gave you this mission, Mr Fitzsimons?" Dumbledore continued his interrogation.

For a few moments there was silence. The headmaster barely looked as if he was breathing.

"He has been Obliviated," Dumbledore said eventually. "He knows his orders and that they came from a legitimate source, but who the person was who gave them has been removed."

Fitzsimons smiled again.

"What is the remit of your task," Dumbledore asked next.

"To ascertain if Harry Potter is the hero he is billed to be, or a security risk," Fitzsimons said, without Dumbledore having to use Legilimency.

"That is neither your right nor your department's area," Dumbledore said, a hair before Draco exploded at the prisoner. "You actions are illegal and you deliberately endangered children."

"This summer school is a farce," Fitzsimons said. "If a few children were hurt it would have proved Harry Potter needed to be dealt with and put an end to this charade. Dealing with He Who Shall Not Be Named should be left to the professionals."

"And what you found was Harry is a hero," Draco snarled at the man. "Was the first example not enough?"

"All experiments must have a certain sample size," Fitzsimons said as if it should have been obvious.

Harry was pretty sure Draco would have strangled the man with his own hands if he could have got away with it. However, before Draco could do anything there was a knock at the door.

"One moment," Dumbledore said and walked towards the entrance to his office.

* * * 

In short order Dumbledore opened the door to his office and allowed Tonks and McGonagall to slip into the room.

"Well that explains a lot," was Tonk's opinion when she saw who was in the chair. "Never did like you Fitzy; you're a plonker of the first order."

"And also an Unspeakable," Dumbledore said.

"Explains why you never seem to do any work," Tonk's concluded. "But what's an Unspeakable doing outside the Department of Mysteries?"

"It appears there is a recent addition within the department tasked with understanding the rise of Megalomaniac wizards and witches," Dumbledore added.

"I'd say that was a good idea," Professor McGonagall said, "except for the fact it appears they were testing Mr Potter. Clearly they are fools."

Harry almost blushed at the faith everyone seemed to have in him.

"And this is a despicable piece of equipment," the head of Gryffindor added and walked forward to place a small box on the headmasters desk.

"If you would be kind enough to explain what it does, Minerva," Dumbledore said, walking back to his place in front of Fitzsimons.

"It warps the Animagus transformation," McGonagall said and Harry couldn't help himself, he gasped. "The resulting mismatch of magic would trap the unfortunate Animagus between their human and their animal form, a most painful and dangerous state. In fact, such accidents have been known to permanently damage the Animagi involved. That someone would seek to cause this deliberately is a travesty."

If there was one thing Minerva McGonagall was incredibly passionate about it was the Animagus transformation. Anyone who had been in her class knew that. Harry was surprised Fitzsimons hadn't been cursed to hell and back already.

"I don't understand how that would test me," he said as he thought about it.

"I believe I can explain that," Dumbledore said. "As I understand it, Minerva, please correct me if I am wrong, such accidents have only occurred before on a battle field or during duelling when an Animagus has been struck by a spell during transformation. Usually the process of transformation would repel additional magic, however, in a few, rare cases it causes a lock between one form and the other."

Professor McGonagall was nodding along.

"The only treatment for such a condition is for an expert to unpick the locked magic," Dumbledore continued. "Usually spells would be used to reveal the problem, but, in your case, Harry, you have the innate ability to see the issue."

"So it's a test of my untangling skills?" Harry still didn't get it.

"No," Draco said, clearly understanding better than he did, "it's a test of how willing you are to get close to another person's magic. To untangle something as personal as the Animagus transformation you would have to open yourself to that wizard or witch. It would be incredibly uncomfortable for you while you worked."

Now Harry understood.

"So like the shield, only more so," Harry said.

"Precisely," Dumbledore agreed.

"Why does everyone think pain is the hardest thing?" Harry asked and shook his head.

Frankly, he found the whole thing ridiculous.

[For many people, Love,] Draco said, [it is.]

[It's utterly mental, that's what it is,] Harry decided.

"Have you planted any other devices in the school, grounds or surrounding area, Mr Fitzsimons?" Dumbledore asked.

Fitzsimons winced. It did not look as if the headmaster was being as gentle as he could have been with the Legilimency.

"No," the man said, trying to shy away from Dumbledore.

However, there was no getting away and Dumbledore did not stop for some time.

"Please excuse me for being thorough," the headmaster said when Fitzsimons finally sagged. "How do you report your findings?"

"Coded message to a registered box in the Ministry," Fitzsimons said without any need for more spells.

Harry had been on the receiving end of Legilimency and he almost felt sorry for the man, almost.

"We could obtain an order to search it," Shacklebolt said.

"Unfortunately I suspect it will provide no useful information," Dumbledore said. "No doubt there are safeguards to prevent an outside party from ascertaining the identity of the users of the box. I have used such devices myself on occasion."

The James Bond theme began playing in Harry's head of its own accord.

[What's that?] Draco asked.

So Harry shared the snippet of James Bond he had seen over the years. He had never been allowed to sit down and watch television with the Dursleys, but he had caught sneaky glimpses from time to time. At Christmas they always fell asleep in front of the TV, giving Harry a chance to watch from the doorway.

[Somehow I can't see Albus in a black suit,] Draco said with a mental laugh.

[No, more like this,] Harry said and sent his soulmate a mental image of Dumbledore in a purple suit with large orange flowers on it.

Draco reached over and took his hand, squeezing it gently.

[Thanks for lightening the atmosphere,] Draco said. [I'm only mostly homicidal now.]

[He's not worth it,] Harry replied.

[He threatened your sanity, if not your life,] Draco said. [How is it that you can be furious that he endangered others, but not that he endangered you?]

Harry didn't have an answer to that.

Chapter Text

Draco knew a thing or two about interrogation techniques, he'd made it his business to investigate such matters in the time between first meeting Voldemort and when he and Harry had bonded. He hadn't had much use for the knowledge since, but he was in awe of Albus Dumbledore.

Even though the headmaster had Fitzsimons right where he wanted him and susceptible to Legilimency, Dumbledore still interrogated the man like a master. And he made it look so easy. Fitzsimons spilled information like it was going out of fashion, even if most of it was useless. The man didn't even know who else was or was not part of his section of the Unspeakables.

By the time Dumbledore was done, Draco only mostly wanted to strangle Fitzsimons.

"You'll spend the rest of your lives in Azkaban for this," Fitzsimons snarled as the headmaster finally turned away from him.

"Of course we won't, Mr Fitzsimons," Dumbledore said.

"Everything you have just done is illegal. I operate with the highest authority."

"Oh, My Dear Boy," the headmaster said and Draco thought the headmaster almost felt sorry for his prisoner, "if you did, do you really think they would have removed their identity from your mind. You will be filed away as a rogue agent on an insane mission. If you are very unlucky you may even be implicated as an agent of Voldemort himself."

Fitzsimons frowned, worry etched in his features. Draco was pretty sure the man had never thought about it like that. The Unspeakable remained that way for several seconds before wildly shaking his head.

"You'll still be going down with me," he snarled.

"Wrong again, I'm afraid," Dumbledore said and for just a moment the twinkle in his eye looked anything but friendly. "Tonks, Minerva, Remus if you would be so good as to take Mr Fitzsimons back to the History of Magic classroom. He's going to have a small accident."

"You would never kill me," Fitzsimons said, clearly stunned by the headmaster's words.

"Oh, nothing so dramatic," Dumbledore said. "You are going to hit your head while attempting to escape. This, of course, will cause considerable concussion and an unfortunate short term memory lapse. Our upstanding Aurors will immediately transfer you to the proper authorities within their department for processing. I doubt very much that the Minister will want a thorough investigation, and you will very likely be on the way to Azkaban by lunch time tomorrow."

Fitzsimons paled at that.

"You can't..."

Dumbledore lifted his wand and spoke one word: "Obliviate."

It seemed that the headmaster was a whole department of experts all rolled into one.

* * *

The previous evening, Dumbledore had sent everyone except himself, Tonk, Remus and Professor McGonagall off to bed while they dealt with Fitzsimons. By the next morning the summer students were all abuzz about something happening in the depths of the night, of course.

"What's our first class," Harry asked Hermione as he sat down at the Gryffindor table, "I'm all turned around after the last couple of days."

"Defensive flying," Hermione provided without a pause.

Draco and Harry had given Ron, Hermione and Pansy the heads up that the need for secrecy was finished, but, so far, they were the only ones who knew the truth.

"You joining us mere mortals again?" Seamus asked from over his porridge.

"The saboteur was caught last night," Draco answered for them both, "there's no need for everything anymore."

Seamus frowned.

"So this was really all about you blowing a gasket?"

Draco rolled his eyes and Harry snorted a laugh.

"Actually it was about making sure no one else got hurt," Hermione said as if it should have been perfectly obvious to everyone at the table. "The saboteur was after Harry the whole time."

Harry wished Hermione hadn't said that as everyone's eyes fixed on him.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," Draco said, "wasn't it obvious. Every single incident just happened to be something that Harry could fix, but he had to put himself in the line of fire to do it. Some idiot was terrified he isn't as noble and pure as the driven snow, like we all know he is."

Seamus nearly choked on his porridge as he tried to laugh and swallow at the same time.

[Thank you,] Harry said as most of the table laughed or, at least, smiled.

"So you left the main classes so the saboteur would target just you and not us?" Lavender was looking at Harry with vague hearts in her eyes; it was unsettling.

"That and we only used one classroom so it could be staked out at night," Draco replied.

[Thank you again,] Harry said, as Draco effectively minimised the whole self-sacrifice angle. "It was the easiest way to make sure we knew where they'd try something next," Harry added out loud.

"And it's all over?" Neville asked.

Harry nodded.

"Who was it?" That came from Dean.

"Don't know," Draco said, since everyone had agreed it would be better if Harry and he not be associated with the clandestine part of the affair. "We just got a note this morning to tell us we can return to normal classes because the perpetrator has been captured."

"Maybe there will be an announcement this morning," Harry suggested.

"Probably," Ron agreed, "Dumbledore does like his speeches."

Everyone nodded, even though it had been a joke. With that all settled, Harry focused on eating and he was in the mood for a full English. Sitting up until after midnight two nights running and then going through full days of summer classes had taken its toll. He was going to need the calories to get through the day fully alert.

When Draco added more food to his plate even after he had filled it from the dishes on the table, he decided he probably needed it even more than he thought he did. Not that he didn't make sure Draco had plenty to eat too.

He was sitting back with a mug of tea and a round of toast and jam when the headmaster finally stood up at the front of the hall.

"Good morning," Dumbledore said, "I see we are nearly all finished, so I believe now is a good time to announce some most heart warming news. As all of you are aware, there have been certain incidents involving the seventh year pupils attending the summer school. I am very happy to report the party responsible for these acts of sabotage has been arrested and taken to the Ministry for questioning. I have it on very good authority that this person has been proved to have been working alone and all danger to students and staff at Hogwarts is over."

Of course a cheer went round the room, as was customary. Harry was just incredibly pleased the headmaster had seen fit to leave him and Draco out of the explanation. He knew Dumbledore did his best to make sure Harry's name was kept out of things when possible, but he was also aware that if the headmaster thought everyone needed reminding that Voldemort was opposed, Harry's name could be very useful.

Now all he had to do was get to class before anyone outside their immediate group could start asking questions.

* * *

It really was extraordinary how rumours travelled around Hogwarts. Sometimes Harry was sure the walls themselves must whisper them, because that was the only way he could explain that Fitzsimons' name was being bandied around by lunchtime by members of their class. He was positive none of the Order would have given it away.

All the Aurors who had been acting as extra security had been recalled, which made for a much brighter atmosphere around the castle. The shadow of someone trying to undermine everything they were doing was gone, however, it had left its mark. The bright enthusiasm of the first few days was still gone. No one was about to quit, but it felt like a shame to Harry.

"Come on, I am starving," Draco said as they trudged back from the Quidditch pitch.

It had been a long hard morning, but so worth it as far as Harry was concerned. The speed with which the class was progressing was amazing. Of course they were all the best flyers, but they were trying formation flying now and it was amazing. There was nothing quite like being in the air.

[Really, nothing?] Draco asked and Harry realised his soulmate had picked up his last thought.

[Well, nothing I can talk about in polite company,] Harry said and grinned.

"God, you're talking about sex again," Ron complained.

"At least we're not doing it out loud, Weasley," Draco said, eyes sparkling with mischief.

"Makes no difference," Ron replied mournfully, "I can see it on Harry's face. Can we go back to when he was innocent, please?"

"And where would the fun be in that?" Draco shot back.

Harry smiled to himself and let Draco and Ron bicker; it was relaxing. After the last couple of days it felt good. He hadn't realised quite how much tension he was carrying around until it wasn't there anymore. Now all he had to worry about was what was for lunch.

"Hey, thanks, mates," a fifth year Hufflepuff who was just coming out of the Great Hall said as Harry walked towards the door.

Then the boy patted Draco on the shoulder as he went past, causing Harry to simply stop and watch the Hufflepuff go.

"What was that all about? he asked.

"I have a sneaking suspicion," Draco said.

They walked into the Great Hall and the closest table stopped.

"Let's hear it for Harry and Draco," someone said and then everyone was applauding. "Thanks for catching Fitzsimons," another voice added.

[We didn't,] Harry said mournfully.

[Apparently we did,] Draco said, [just go with it and smile.]

Harry did his best, but the whole grinding his teeth thing made it hard.

Chapter Text

Thankfully the last week and a half of July passed without incident. It was funny, after everyone had found out about Harry and Draco deliberately putting themselves in the line of fire to catch the saboteur, the atmosphere had changed again. Harry had the sinking suspicion that someone being after him was far more normal and easy to deal with for pupils of Hogwarts than themselves being the target. Hence, as Draco had suggested, he just went with it.

Of course the end of July was very significant to Harry.

As birthdays went, he had not really had any fabulously great ones, having spent most of them with the Dursleys. His eighteenth was his first where he was with family that he would ever consider introducing to anyone else as his kin. He was pretty sure it was difficult to miss quite how excited he was by this prospect and Draco had teased him mercilessly all day on the thirtieth about how he was acting like an eight year old. Getting to sleep had been especially hard since he had not even had classes to wear him out, because the day before his birthday was a Saturday.

However, he had eventually dropped off, but he had not slept for long. At midnight Draco had woken him, and wished him a happy birthday in a very adult and direct manner. So much so that he had fallen into a very deep, very happy sleep two hours later, and he was still smiling at breakfast.

"Don't tell me what your first present was," Ron said the moment he sat down opposite Harry in the great hall, "I can guess. Happy birthday, mate."

"Thanks," he said since he was having trouble thinking of anything else.

Harry was so used to celebrating his birthday alone with owled presents that he was somewhat overwhelmed with everyone wishing him a happy birthday. So far, none of those staying for the summer had failed to say something when they came in and sat down for breakfast.

"Happy birthday, Harry," Hermione greeted and pecked him on the cheek before sitting down next to Ron.

Since he had just taken a bite of toast, this time all he could do was smile. Draco just gave him a look and shook his head, but there was no verbal or mental communication. Harry was pretty sure his soulmate was enjoying watching and feeling his reaction to the whole scenario, and he was quite happy with that.

It was not long after this that the morning owls arrived. Since it was Sunday there weren't as many as there might have been on a week day, but the Wizarding world did not shut down even as much as the Muggle world did at the weekends. An official looking brown owl landed in front of Harry and offered what looked at first glance to be a Muggle envelope, stamp and all.

Taking it and feeding the owl a piece of sausage, Harry read the typed address on the front, which consisted of his name, care of what sounded like a solicitor's office. Above this there was a handwritten addition indicating Hogwarts.

[That looks Muggle,] was Draco's distinct opinion on the matter.

[I think it is,] Harry replied, turning it over and sliding a nail under the brown flap at the end.

Several people were watching with interest as he pulled out the sheaf of papers within and two photos fell onto the table. These days he was so used to wizarding photos that the fact that the pictures fell face up and then didn't move, rather surprised him. Both prints showed a nice looking Victorian house from the front and the back. Not having a clue what this was all about, Harry opened the papers and looked at the covering letter.

Dear Mr Potter,

congratulations on your eighteenth birthday. It is with great pleasure that Graham and Clarkes are able to now dispatch the duty which it has been our honour to undertake for Dr and Mrs P. Evans. It was Dr and Mrs Evan's wish that a significant portion of their estate be held in trust for their grandchildren until the youngest of these aforementioned heirs reached their eighteenth birthday, there to be divided between however many grandchildren were still living.

You, Mr Potter and Mr D. Dursley are the only two beneficiaries and hence please find enclosed the details of Evergreen House, pictures enclosed. It was Dr Evans' wish that the house go to the youngest of his grandchildren, and that the trust fund of £50,000 be divided among the rest.

To maintain the house while in our care, tenants were installed and their lease will terminate at the end of the month. If you wish to take up residence the keys may be collected from our offices, or Graham and Clarkes will be happy to remain as intermediaries and arrange for further tenants.

If these arrangements are suitable, please contact our offices at your nearest convenience to arrange the transfer of documentation and sundries to your keeping.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Graham

Partner - Graham and Clarkes

Harry picked up one of the photos and really looked at it.

[We own a house,] he said, rather surprised and passed the picture Draco.

It was all a shock. With the Dursleys the Evans were rarely mentioned and Harry had had no idea what his grandparents had been like, let alone that there was anything waiting for him in trust. Petunia had always spoken of them favouring Lily and never a kind word was said about them, but if they had left property and money in trust for all of their grandchildren, Harry was not so sure they only favoured one daughter.

[I never met my grandparents,] he told Draco as he mulled over this latest revelation; [they died around the same time as my parents. I don't really know what happened to them, maybe Dumbledore knows.]

[You should ask him,] his soulmate replied with a supportive smile. [Looks like a nice house. All Muggle I assume?]

[I guess so,] Harry replied, since all the evidence was pointing in that direction, although with a witch as a child his grandparents would have legally been allowed to have some magical things around the house.

He looked up and saw several of his friends look away at the same time, which made him smile. There was no such thing as privacy at a communal breakfast table and he thought it was rather endearing that people were trying to make out that there was.

"My grandparents left me a house," he said aloud before anyone died of curiosity.

"Can I see?" Hermione was the first to give in once Harry had all but given his permission.

Draco handed over the picture with an amused grin as every girl on Hermione's side of the table crowded round to see the small photo.

[Won't see that again for half an hour,] was Draco's comment as the female contingent began to pass judgement.

Ron was smiling when Harry looked over at him, but there was a shadow in his friend's eyes and it suddenly occurred to Harry that he had probably just rubbed Ron's nose in his wealth again. If it was up to him he would hand over a huge pile of galleons to his best friend in a heartbeat, but Ron had grown into the Weasley pride and it would never work.

* * * 

Harry was pretty sure he had never seen so many balloons. Nearly the whole floor was covered with them, of all colours, shapes and sizes. And there weren't only balloons, but garlands and banners and the biggest table of food in the history of Hogwarts if Harry was any judge. He had thought they had made a show when they held the inter-house bonding party, as he mentally referred to it, but this was even bigger.

"Wow," was the only thing he could think to say.

Hermione and Neville had co-opted the Room of Requirement for the day, since there were no classes on a Sunday and they had outdone themselves.

When they had told him they were having a party for his birthday he had been a little unsure, but also delighted. What he hadn't expected was the location or how many people were there. Hermione had clearly invited everyone who was staying at Hogwarts for the summer.

"Happy Birthday, Harry," Ron announced and suddenly the air was full of streamers and cheers.

Seamus was once again in charge of music and 'Happy Birthday' began to play loudly, with everyone joining in. Harry could feel the heat in his face and he was probably blushing bright red, but he couldn't keep the huge smile off his face either.

As with the school song, when a group of Hogwarts students all sang together, they didn't always match, but Harry didn't care. He was pretty sure his heart was fit to burst. It wasn't just the song either, he could actually feel the energy of everyone aimed right at him. There didn't seem to be a dark emotion in the room and he lowered his barriers a little to let it flood in.

[Happy Birthday, Love,] Draco said, wrapping an arm around him.

[This is the best birthday ever.]

"Speech," someone yelled when the singing finished and everyone laughed.

[I can't do a speech,] Harry said as he instantly panicked.

[Just say something nice,] Draco told him.

"Um," Harry said and caused everyone to laugh again. "Thanks for coming. As Professor Dumbledore would say, 'Tuck in'."

Another cheer went up and Seamus took the cue to start the music proper. Harry was sure it was going to be a great party.

* * * 

Draco couldn't help smiling at the delighted happy feeling coming from Harry. The party had been a huge success. The best part had been when Harry had seen the large chocolate cake the house elves had made for him specially. It had had candles and everything and Draco was pretty sure Harry had almost cried. He'd use that knowledge to tease his soulmate another day.

Right then he had more designs on Harry's virtue than on making him blush. There had been something he'd wanted to try ever since Harry had mentioned it. The fact Harry found his voice inordinately sexy appealed to him and he had been planning out a few ideas in his head for some time.

"Harry," he said, pitching his voice low and melodic.

Harry turned from where he had been eyeing the bed, smiling at him.

"Thank you for a lovely day," Harry said, "it's been brilliant."

"And it's not over yet," Draco said, returning the smile with one of his own that was much wickeder. "Why don't you take your clothes off for me love?"

Harry's pupils dilated almost immediately and his moth fell open just slightly.

"It's not really my birthday anymore," he stammered.

The party had gone on past midnight, but Draco didn't care.

"Not the detail I'm interested in at the moment," Draco replied, keeping his voice low and his eyes firmly on Harry. "We'll grandfather this in on a technicality. It's more of my present to myself anyway, I know what's under those jeans."

Harry's adam's apple bobbed.

"Take them off for me," Draco continued, his tone coaxing, but just a little commanding as well.

He knew Harry liked it when he took charge, the only person Harry was comfortable giving over complete control to. They both had trust issues the size of planets, but not with each other.

Under Draco's watchful gaze, Harry fumbled to get himself out of his own clothes. It wasn't exactly the dance of the seven veils, but it was just as erotic for Draco. Harry's faith in him, the trust and love, were more of a turn on than any amount of eroticism.

"My, my, Harry," Draco said as Harry's erection bobbed free of the hastily removed clothes, "that was quick. Were you, maybe, contemplating my virtue before we made it back here."

These days it was very easy to get Harry interested in sex, actually, truth be told, it was easy to encourage either of them into sex, but Harry was definitely the worst. However, Harry was full erect already, which was fast even for him.

"You dance sinfully well," Harry admitted.

"And were you going to tell me about your ample problem?"

"It's been a long day, I didn't want to assume."

"Oh, Harry, love, it's never too long a day when a prize like you is on offer."

He made sure to let his gaze rest on Harry's cock for a good few seconds.

"Climb on to the bed for me and lay back."

Harry did as he was asked, all lean limbs and wiry muscle, and Draco drank in the whole view.

"You have a very beautiful body, Harry," he said, stepping up to the side of the bed.

Even as he spoke he saw doubt about that flicker across Harry's face. Draco had to squelch down the desire to destroy the people who had spent Harry's entire childhood making him feel inadequate; now was not the time. One of his missions in life was to make sure Harry knew quite how beautiful he was, especially to him.

"So beautiful I can barely stop myself touching, and you know how I value my self control. I want to kiss every inch, taste every last millimetre of skin, but I won't let myself ... yet. First I want to tell you exactly what I'm going to do."

Harry moaned ever so quietly and Draco smiled.

"I think I will start with your neck," he went on, "that spot to the right that makes you shiver. I won't let you move as I trail little kisses all down your collar bone. I know you'll want to touch back, but you won't be allowed to, not until I say. Do you think you'll be able to do that?"

He looked Harry in the eye and his soulmate just made a non-committal humming sound. All the green of those incredible irises was almost lost completely in black now as Harry gave himself over to desire.

"I know how sensitive your nipples are, they're so hard already. I shall use my tongue on them as I run my hands all over your chest until you can barely contain yourself. Until you're desperate."

To make his point he ran one finger up the side of Harry's leg.

"Do you think you will beg?"

"Oh god yes."

The response was all but explosive. Draco smiled again.

"Only when you do will I move on," he continued, licking his lips in appreciation as Harry's cock twitched very noticeably. "I'm going to take my time sucking ... and licking ... and fondling that long, thick cock of yours. I'm going to make you so hard you forget your own name. All you'll be able to think about is me."

He paused and allowed Harry to stare at him.

"And," he continued, pausing for effect, "when all you can do is moan in need, I'll climb on top and sink down onto you, taking every inch in one long stroke."

Harry whimpered. This time when he smiled Draco showed all his teeth; he had Harry right where he wanted him. His voice really did seem to have a magical effect on Harry. He wondered how far he could take Harry before he even properly touched him. It was going to be fun to find out.

Chapter Text

It had been just over a week since his birthday and Harry had completely set his mind to figuring out a solution to the Hogwarts problem. That is, the fact it was defenceless against his new means of travel. He liked to think of it as being focused, Draco called it obsessed. Not that Draco was much less focused than he was.

Their friends were incredibly curious as to why they kept disappearing to the library and what they were doing, but were so far accepting the 'sorry, can't tell you' line. Harry wasn't sure how much longer that was going to last, hence his sense of urgency.

They'd been on yet another fruitless search in the library until Madam Pince had kicked them out. When they'd returned to the tower, Harry had gone straight up to their room, but Draco had remained downstairs. Mostly to allay any worries their friends might have. They were both tired after a hard day of summer classes and then an evening of research, but Draco had insisted to keep Harry's fellow Gryffindors happy.

Harry was lying on the bed staring at the canopy and going over everything for the hundredth time in his head. He was kind of hoping for another revelation like the one that had got them into this trouble in the first place.

They had searched just about every obscure reference they could find to see if anyone in the Wizarding world had ever had the remotest notion of Harry's discovery. It didn't look as if there was anything at all, which meant no one had investigated magic that might affect it. The few words he had passed with Hermione before heading up to his room kept going around in his head.

"No luck?" she had asked.

"There's nothing," he had replied.

"Well you're unique, Harry. If it's to do with you, maybe only you can figure it out."

Unfortunately, that was what he was afraid of, only he wasn't a magical expert at anything. He was just bumbling his way through trying to survive in a world that was so much bigger now. Maybe Fitzsimons had been right to test him.

He couldn't help the irritation that ran through him when the Unspeakable popped into his head. Endangering other people had been unforgivable and he was glad the man was locked up. The whole thing had been completely underhand and the way the man had tried to blame it on Duggan was disgusting. The amulet that confused Harry's magical senses had been a stroke of genius on Fitzsimons' part, he hoped they wouldn't catch on.

Harry mentally scolded himself as he realised his thoughts were completely off track. He was supposed to be thinking about wards, not amulets. Magical things held much more fascination for him now than they had before he knew he was a Hecatemus. The amulet was very interesting magic, but that wasn't the point.

He stopped his musing as something sparked in his brain.

For a moment he wasn't sure what had occurred to him, but he chased it down.

"Oh," he said, sitting up, "oh ... yes ... maybe that's it."

[Harry, what is it?] came from Draco.

[Fitzsimons amulet,] Harry replied, becoming more excited by the second, [it confused my sense of magic and emotion and energy, I couldn't get a read on him.]

[And?]

[What if that's it? What if that's the solution?]

Draco was silent for a moment.

[Oh,] Draco said as if having his own revelation, [you mean a ward that doesn't block Apparation, but that confuses the connections so that the magic can't figure out where to go.]

[Yes.]

[My god, we've been chasing the wrong quaffle,] was Draco's conclusion. [Tomorrow we start looking up how in Merlin's name that amulet works.]

[We should ask Albus too, maybe he already knows.]

[Good idea.]

Now all Harry had to worry about was the fact the amulet had belonged to an Unspeakable. He really hoped it wasn't some secret research project, because that would make their task almost impossible.

* * *

As it turned out Dumbledore did know something about the device Fitzsimons had used to confuse Harry's magical senses. He also thought that the line of enquiry was a very good idea and was able to give them several starting points for researching it.

Honestly, Draco could barely believe that it only took them two days to come up with something. They spent every waking moment when they weren't in classes or eating to work on it, but Draco was still amazed by their progress. He began to pity anyone who thought they could go up against them when they were working in complete tandem.

With Harry's unique outlook on the world and Draco's fundamental knowledge, they had a working plan only two evenings after they had started. They had locked themselves in the Room of Requirement to test out their theories, since it was the most secure place within Hogwarts.

One of the things they had been researching over the past weeks was ward theory. Neither of them were experts, but they had the basics down. The difference between a shield and a ward was that a shield was active, it required a wizard with a wand to create it and keep it in place. A ward was passive, being tied to a place and taking its power from its surroundings only when necessary.

That was one of the reasons a shield was so much stronger and obvious.

"Okay," Draco said, once he was sure the Room of Requirement was secure, "let's make sure we have everything set up."

Using his connection to Harry, he felt out the connections between the energy in the room. Holding his wand, he concentrated and disappeared from his spot beside Harry. For a fraction of a second he felt like he was sliding down a water pipe, rushing with the flow and he could almost see the colours of the universe flash by. Then he reappeared in the section of the room they had marked off.

Nodding at his soulmate, he repeated the process to return to where he had been.

"Are you ready?" he asked.

"As I'll ever be," Harry replied and Draco could feel the nervous excitement in his soulmate.

Putting theory into practice was completely different from just reading about it.

"Then let's try it," Draco said and placed his hand gently against Harry's back.

They needed Harry's powers for this, so it was Draco's job to support Harry as he worked. He quieted his mind and slipped into rapport with his soulmate so he could see exactly what Harry was doing.

The section they had marked off was at one end of the room and they were about half way down. At the moment the Room of Requirement was about the size of a normal classroom, so they could see what they were aiming at clearly. Draco sensed the increase in pressure on Harry when he lowered his barriers.

The first part of casting a ward was to cast a shield. The rush of magic through Harry made Draco shiver as his soulmate created a standard magical barrier. To Harry's vision it sparkled and Draco was reminded once again, how beautiful the world was through Harry's eyes. It was even more breathtaking when Harry began to change the magic.

A normal wards expert could weave the magic for a ward using their wand and some very complicated charms. Harry was doing it with his mind.

The first thing Harry did was wind the edges of the shield into the magic of the floor, anchoring it in place. It undulated in his grasp, moving to its own rhythms, as Harry coaxed it into place. There was no brute force involved and it made Draco's nerves tingle as if fingers were stroking his skin. If it hadn't been for Harry's deep concentration, it might have been relaxing.

Harry severed the connection between his own magic and the shield by lowering his wand. It faded somewhat, thinning into metallic strands, like a spider's web, but remained in place, feeding off the magic in its surrounding.

"Probably wouldn't stop a well aimed jinx," Harry commented.

"It's not supposed to," Draco said.

The next part was the really complicated bit.

[Take a deep breath,] Draco said.

Harry did, squaring his shoulders.

Draco closed his eyes and waited. He knew instantly when Harry changed his perception yet again and he gritted his teeth, lending his strength and presence. All the information about all the connections in the whole universe tried to push into Harry's brain at the same time, but he held, pushing back.

To move from one place to another it was enough that Harry knew the connections were there, for this he needed to see them.

Taking a deep breath of his own, Draco held strong, placing his mental presence in the centre of Harry's so his soulmate could regain his equilibrium.

[Never let anyone tell you the universe it not infinite,] Harry said, inner voice almost shaking.

[Weave it, Love,] Draco said.

As if his words bolstered Harry's resolve, Harry went to work.

Watching through Harry's eyes, Draco saw the magic change. Each strand began to flow and change, spreading like molten metal. Draco had to remind himself to breathe as Harry played with power at such a fundamental level. His cells hummed with the resonance in his soulmate.

As the magic spread, so it became almost transparent, only a lightly shimmering glint to show the dome it was creating. It looked like the finest crystal.

The sight was captivating ... right up to the moment it shattered.

Draco couldn't help it, he ducked, even though there wasn't actually anything physical to be ducking from. The magic dissipated into the room harmlessly.

"Bugger," Harry said loudly.

"That's why we're practicing," Draco said, laughing, even as he stood back up to this full height.

They reached the same point three more times and lost it each one, until Harry finally got it right. It was the next step that caused the magic to fragment and it took a while before Harry figured out how to do it. A flat sheet of thin magic was not going to stop anything, so it required warping. However, one push the wrong way too hard and the whole thing disintegrated.

When Harry finally figured out how to push the magic just so, they both breathed a sigh of relief.

[That's it,] Draco said as the shield distended and changed.

As it twisted it began to shimmer, distorting the view through it. Draco was mesmerised as it almost seemed to change into something else under Harry's control. Then he felt it, almost like a click, but something deep inside him, not external at all. The patterns of energy inside the ward turned into a mass of colour, with no sense of order.

"It's done," Harry said, carefully rebuilding his mental barriers to their usual level.

Only when Harry finally relaxed did Draco remove his hand from his soulmate's back.

"Then it's down to me to test it," he said, blinking as his own vision reasserted itself and the room went back to all the ordinary colours.

"Guess so," Harry said, looking terribly unsure.

"It will work," Draco said, giving Harry an encouraging smile, "you'll see."

Pulling out his wand, he repeated his actions of before, finding his focus, concentrating and trying to travel. He felt the spell begin to work and the sliding sensation made his nerves hum, but then it felt like landing in treacle.

"Woah," he said as he found himself sliding down the outside of Harry's ward.

Unfortunately he had rematerialised at the top of it, and there were quite a few feet to the floor.

"Ow," he said as he landed in an undignified heap on the floor.

What was really strange though, was when he stopped moving. Because of the way he had fallen he was half leaning on the shield, but the moment he was still, it was as if nothing was there. Indignity of indignities, he ended up nearly flat on his face.

"That works," he said.

"Are you okay?" Harry asked, rushing over.

"I'm fine," he replied, pushing himself up and brushing off his trousers, "but my dignity may never recover."

Harry grinned at that, the worry dropping away.

"It worked though," Harry said, the delighted feeling permeating across their bond.

"Definitely," Draco agreed and eventually smiled back, because he had no wish to rain on Harry's parade. "Now from the inside."

Harry went back to worried again as Draco stepped into the marked off area.

"I don't feel anything," Draco said, "so, so far so good."

A ward that made itself known to everyone inside it was no good to anyone.

Holding his wand firmly, Draco concentrated again, this time tensed for any less than favourable effects. It was all very anticlimactic when nothing happened at all.

"I think we can safely say that works," Draco said after he tried a second time. Harry beamed at him. "Now we need to talk to Albus to find out how to do it on a bigger scale."

The feeling of anxiety once again flooded their link.

Chapter Text

It was midnight, it was cold, but Harry was so nervous he was barely aware of the temperature. Drizzle all day had put pay to any summer warmth and made it a miserable night, but at least it almost guaranteed there would be no one else outside.

They had spent an hour earlier in the Room of Requirement with Dumbledore as they demonstrated how they could set and cancel their small ward. It had taken five times before the headmaster was satisfied and then all Dumbledore had done was nod and tell them to meet him in the entrance hall when everyone else was asleep.

Now they were following him though the unpleasant Scottish night around the side of the castle and into the grounds. So far the headmaster had done no more than say good evening.

[Where are we going?] Harry asked.

[The nexus point, I suspect,] Draco said.

[What's that?]

[Halfbloods,] Draco complained at that question. [The nexus point of any magical building is where its protections are set. Usually it's somewhere inside, a stone in the foundation or something, but since the wards here protect the whole grounds it must be somewhere outside.]

[And he couldn't just tell us this because?]

[Probably so there was no danger of eavesdroppers,] Draco replied. [The nexus is always a secret. It's not exactly a vulnerable point, but it could be used as a weakness.]

[Oh. I suppose that makes sense. Wish it was inside though.]

[Likewise.]

Dumbledore led them to a spot that was apparently nowhere in particular. There was nothing to mark the spot, no real landmarks and about the only thing Harry could say about it was that it couldn't be seen from any of the windows of the main building.

"Welcome, Gentlemen, to the Hogwarts nexus," the headmaster said and pointed to a small stone in the ground.

The light from Dumbledore's wand was just enough so that when Harry peered at the stone he could read one word: 'Rufus'. The stone looked like a grave marker.

"Who was Rufus?" he asked.

"Rowena Ravenclaw's cat," Dumbledore replied. "Where he truly lies is unknown, but the founders decided to use a false grave stone to mark the nexus point. The wards were originally designed by Salazar Slytherin, but have been added to many times over the years."

"Have they ever fallen?" Draco asked.

"Never."

Harry's stomach twisted at that revelation. He could only imagine the number of things that could go wrong with what they were about to try and do.

"Do not worry, Harry," the headmaster said as if reading his mind, "what we do here tonight cannot damage what is already there."

"But I don't know enough about wards," he replied. "What if I do something wrong?"

He was surprised when Dumbledore simply smiled.

"I will let you into a secret, My Dear Boys," the headmaster said; "there is not a wizard or witch alive who understands the protections on this school completely. The headmaster or headmistress is given the ability to disable part or all of the wards as his or her discretion, however, even our greatest wards experts could not begin to explain how they truly work."

"Then how are we going to add the new ward?" Harry asked.

It sounded like it was impossible.

"New wards are cast on the nexus," Dumbledore explained "and those the school approves of are automatically combined into its protections. Those it does not approve of simply cease."

Harry couldn't help it, he glanced back at the castle.

"Are you suggesting the school is sentient?" Draco sounded incredulous.

"Wouldn't surprise me," was what Harry commented quietly.

He had long suspected that Hogwarts was a law unto itself.

"Not as we would understand sentience," Dumbledore said, eyes twinkling with delight, "but she has her own personality."

[You have to admit that's always been true,] Harry said.

[I know we always say 'well its Hogwarts', but I always thought that was Albus,] Draco replied.

[Guess not,] was Harry's response.

"So I should cast the ward here then?" Harry checked.

"If you would be so kind," the headmaster replied with a nod.

[Help,] Harry said and felt rather pathetic.

[Just do what you did upstairs down here,] Draco told him in a very rational and calm tone.

Harry only wished he felt as confident as Draco did. What he really wanted to know was would Hogwarts think he was an idiot if he got this wrong?

Lowering his mental barriers, the first thing he had to do was adjust to the magic around him. Draco's hand firmly planted at the base of his spine helped ground him, but it took his a few moments. He had felt his way around Hogwarts many times and he couldn't believe he had never noticed where the nexus was. Standing at it now, it was obvious.

It wasn't that everything sprung from the same point, but there was a charge in the air that made his cells quiver. Now he knew what he was looking at, he realised it felt like a foundation.

Next Harry shifted his perception so the lines of energy flared into his vision. How he hadn't seen them straight away was a mystery to him as well, all it took was the slightest push in his mind for them to be obvious.

The shield spell was easy and he cast it with virtually no effort over the nexus stone. He knew he couldn't smell ozone as the charm came into existence, but the phantom scent tickled his nose as his body reacted to the magic he had cast. The next part was a little tricky, however. Weaving one magic into another magical place was not as instinctive as the shield charms had become.

He started with a most obvious thread, winding it into the grass around the nexus. However, before he could move to the next, the whole shield flared and he brought his arm up automatically to shield his eyes, losing his hold on the spell.

"Oh," he said when he could see again.

The shield was still there and it was completely grounded, glowing gently as a concentrated ward should.

"What happened, Harry?" Dumbledore asked.

"The shield," he said, "I was grounding it and it did it itself."

"A very good sign, My Boy," was the headmaster's assessment of that.

Harry could only take Dumbledore's word for that as he returned to his task. He viewed the magic of the shield like threads of cotton in a weave and what he had to do was ease the strands apart gently to form a much finer fabric. It took time, but it wasn't particularly taxing, especially since, when he urged the magic into motion, it tended to keep going unless he stopped it. The problem was, the finer the strands, the more delicate the structure.

In the end it was more of a gossamer sheet than anything like the shield it had been before.

All that remained after that was to coax the magic so that it refracted energy coming at it, rather than letting it through. He remembered Hermione going on about light and science more than once and he liked to think of the magic as a pool. What he needed to do was make it so the water diffused what hit its surface.

He had to be very careful. The first few times he had tried he had moved too fast. The ward was very delicate and had to be treated very gently. There was no brute force involved in this technique.

The moment it came into line, however, Harry felt it. Draco had been right when they had discussed what it was like, it was sort of a click. The area inside the ward became a beautiful aurora, rather than the mess of connections he was aware of elsewhere. Now he just had to wait to find out Hogwarts' assessment.

He withdrew his touch from the ward, pushing his perception back to normal, but keeping his barriers low so he could see his construction.

"It's done," he said for Dumbledore's benefit.

Frankly, he wasn't sure what to expect. When he shivered from head to foot and his ward completely vanished he wasn't sure what had happened.

"Did it work?" he asked.

"I do not know," Dumbledore replied. "If it has, there will be a new option for the wards in my office. Shall we?"

Harry felt a bit let down.

[Just look,] Draco said.

[I was,] Harry replied, [it's gone.]

[No,] Draco said, smiling at him just slightly, [look for the connections.]

Harry felt like a bit of an idiot. He pushed his perception again and the air around him filled with diffuse colour.

"Oh," he said, more than a little breathlessly and he had the distinct impression Draco had probably known before he had.

"Do you see something, My Boy?" Dumbledore asked.

"It worked," Harry said, blinking and forcing his vision away from the beautiful glow, "I think it definitely worked."

"Superb," the headmaster decided with a very large smile. "I believe a celebratory cocoa may be in order.

"A lovely idea," Draco agreed, so Harry just nodded.

He couldn't help thinking of why they were having to do this, however.

* * *

Draco spent the entire walk back to the headmaster's office watching Harry carefully. He was almost sure that Harry was fine and there were no after effects of setting the ward, but he liked to be sure.

After Harry had checked to see if the ward had been accepted, he'd seemed kind of dazed.

While Draco suspected it was merely surprise that it had actually worked and wonder at the effect the ward had, he never took chances when it came to Harry. Hogwarts was a very magical place, even as most magical places went, and that wasn't always good for his soulmate.

"I do find cocoa so comforting after an evening of hard work, don't you?" Dumbledore said as they trailed him into his office. "And a most splendid evening's work it has been. I must congratulate both of you on your studious achievement."

"It's ironic," Draco commented, "if it hadn't been for Fitzsimons and his amulet, Harry might never have figured it out."

"I didn't figure it out," Harry said, "I made a guess and then you figured out how we could do it."

"A joint effort then," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling, "as it should be. I do not believe our world will be quite prepared for the impact of two such innovative minds. Which is all to the good, because if allowed our society is known to become somewhat stuffy."

[You can say that again,] Harry commented silently.

Finally Draco relaxed, if Harry was making off hand comments he was definitely fine.

"Would you care for your cocoa with or without marshmallows?" Dumbledore changed the subject without pausing.

"With please," Draco replied and grinned.

His mother had always allowed him to have marshmallows in his cocoa, although Lucius had consistently referred to it as 'a common colonial tradition'.

"I never argue with marshmallows," Harry agreed.

They made small talk as they dried off, warmed up and waited for the house elves to deliver their cocoa. It was only after the drinks had been provided and Draco was contemplating if his socks would ever be perfectly dry again that Dumbledore became more serious again.

"Hogwarts is as unique in its protections as it is in all other things," the headmaster said. "The wards around the Ministry, for example, are achieved in a different manner. However, I believe that with access, a similar solution could be achieved."

"But we can't just tell the Ministry because it leaks like a sieve," Draco said what he was sure they were all thinking.

"Precisely," Dumbledore replied with a small smile at Draco's turn of phrase.

"So how can we do it?" Harry asked. "They're never going to let me near their nexus with or without an explanation."

Draco nodded, the Ministry were not known for their common sense.

"I believe I may know someone who would be willing to assist in this matter," Dumbledore told them. "I shall make discreet enquiries immediately if you are willing."

"As much as I despise some of the idiots who work there," Draco said, "it would be disastrous if the Ministry was wide open to complete invasion."

"Agreed," Harry said, "although I wouldn't mind leaving out Fudge's office."

[So you do have a vindictive streak in there,] Draco said, [I knew I'd find it eventually.]

[I save it for special occasions,] Harry replied with a small smile.

"Quite," Dumbledore said, also smiling, "we shall have to decide what to do about poor Cornelius at some point."

It was something of an ominous pronouncement; Draco approved.

"And, reluctant though I am to add further burdens to you both," the headmaster continued, "have you considered the advantage this technique --"

"Transferring," Harry added.

"Ah, yes, Transferring," Dumbledore said, "would be to the Order?"

"We've been focused on trying to protect against it," Harry said, "but I can see what you mean. If Apparition was impossible, but our side could still pop off when they needed to it could save a lot of lives."

"But it only takes one to let the information slip," Draco pointed out.

"And how could anyone do it when they can't see the connections," Harry added.

"Both valid points," Dumbledore agreed, "and secrecy is of utmost importance. It may be that this discovery will only ever be of use to those of your kind, Harry, but I would be most grateful if you would both give the matter some thought. Although..."

Draco stopped himself commenting as the headmaster went on.

"... not immediately. You have both been working far too hard on this project."

"It was important," Harry said.

"Indeed it was, My Dear Boy, and you have both, once again, exceeded what any of us could have rightfully expected. I would humbly suggest you concentrate on the summer classes and allow the current conundrum to simmer gently for a future date."

Draco could already feel Harry's mind beginning to churn.

[Stop it,] he said.

[But...]

[You heard Albus,] Draco insisted, [now stop it. We can think about it later. One earth shattering magical breakthrough a month is enough.]

He felt a vague agreement from Harry, but he doubted that would be the end of it. Sometimes he wondered if Gryffindors had their self preservation instincts removed at birth.

Chapter Text

"Hello, Albus," the woman who walked through the door of the headmaster's office greeted, "it's been quite a while."

"That it has, Grace, that is has," Dumbledore returned, "doesn't time fly. Grace, may I introduce Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. Harry, Draco, this is Grace Proforos, she is an old friend and currently employed by the Department of Mysteries."

Ms Proforos lifted an eyebrow as the headmaster revealed that and Harry was pretty sure it was an objection. She had one of those ageless faces and Harry would have put her at about thirty five, only there was more grey at her temples than he would have expected for someone that age. She almost looked as if she had dyed it like that, but it was hard to be sure. Her piercing stare reminded him of more than one Slytherin of his acquaintance.

"Quite necessary, I'm afraid," was the only thing Dumbledore said in way of apology. "Especially after the incident with Mr Fitzsimons. Please come in and close the door so that we may confer privately."

Ms Proforos did as she was asked.

"I can assure you Mr Fitzsimons' new division has been disbanded and his remit allocated to subdividions of the existing structure," she said, "under proper supervision."

"As it should be," the headmaster said with a smile. "We, shall of course, pry no further."

"Mr Potter, Mr Malfoy," Ms Proforos said as she moved over towards the desk, "it's a pleasure to finally meet you both. Hilde speaks very highly of you."

"You know Hilde?" Harry couldn't help himself. "Oh and please call me Harry."

"Thank you, Harry, and call me Grace," Grace responded, "and yes, Hilde and I have been known to sit together for lunch when time permits. Of course she has been much busier since last year."

"That's what Harry's here for," Draco commented, "to give us all that much more work to do."

Harry rolled his eyes at his soulmate. He hadn't missed the fact that Draco did not invite Grace to use his first name; Draco was clearly reserving judgement. Since there were no horsemen of the Apocalypse on the horizon, Harry was satisfied this was just as it should be.

"Tea, Grace?" Dumbledore offered.

"No, thank you," the woman replied.

"Well, on to business then," Dumbledore continued as Grace took the last chair, "thank you for coming on such short notice. My apologies for being so vague in my correspondence, but I am sure you will understand why, once Harry explains why we have asked you to come."

"Albus, when you request anything, I always know there is a good reason," Grace said.

Dumbledore nodded at Harry.

"I've discovered a new way of travelling from place to place without using Apparating or a portkey," he said simply, "and current wards cannot block it."

He watched Grace's face as the consequences of his concise statement dawned on the Unspeakable. There was only a flicker of reaction, but he knew his point had been made.

"You have been experimenting with alternative means of travel?" Grace asked and her voice gave away no emotion at all.

"Not deliberately," he replied. "I find Apparating very uncomfortable and I was trying to acclimatise myself to people doing it around me, for obvious reasons. It's a hideously destructive process. I was just thinking that there must be a better way to do it and then I just saw them."

"Them?"

"The connections," Harry said, "between energy. For want of a better word we call the new mechanism Transferring; it uses the same techniques as Apparating, but rather than blasting a hole to pass through it uses the energy connections like Muggle phone lines."

"The current spells against Apparating block the making of the hole," Draco backed him up, "which means they cannot block Transferring."

Grace sat back in her chair.

"And you've proved this works?" she asked.

"The discovery was somewhat overwhelming to Harry and in his need to be with Harry, Draco used this technique to travel from one place within Hogwarts to another," Dumbledore said. "Luckily he was unobserved and we have taken great pains to keep this information limited, but you can see why I contacted you."

"Completely," Grace acknowledged.

"The good news is we believe the ability to Transfer is currently limited to Harry and through him, Draco, because of the complexities of finding these connections," the headmaster continued to explain. "However, should this information get out, there is no guarantee someone would not find a method to do so."

"Quite," Grace agreed.

Harry sat forward.

"We've been working on a new ward," he said. "We've already warded Hogwarts and tested it, but the Ministry is still wide open. That's why we needed to speak to someone who could help."

"And not blab because it might be politically convenient," Grace added and Harry nodded; they were on the same page.

It was nice to know they weren't the only ones with such a low opinion of Fudge.

"So, what do you need?" Grace asked.

"You to get Harry into the Ministry in secret to set the new wards," Draco said, "and a wards expert to help us come up with a way to allow someone who doesn't have Harry's gifts to do the same thing."

Looking down Grace tapped her top lip with her index finger for a moment, before glancing over at Dumbledore.

"Alright," she said, turning back to focus on Harry, "both of those I can do. Are you sure these new wards won't affect the current security of the Ministry?"

"They don't interact with any existing defences," Draco said before Harry could say anything. "If you're worried we'd be happy to explain them to your wards expert before going anywhere near the Ministry."

"That would be satisfactory," Grace said. "The man I have in mind is Maximillian Tutela, he spent several years in our department before moving on to the private sector. Totally trust worthy."

"Ah, yes," Dumbledore said, "I know his work. A very good choice."

"When can you see him?" Grace asked.

"As soon as you can get him here," Harry said. "We're free evenings and weekends, but we can make space in our summer schedule if necessary."

He felt much better about the whole situation now that things were in motion.

* * *

Harry was halfway through his breakfast when Professor McGonagall placed a stack of envelopes on the end of the table before moving on. Hermione, who was sitting opposite him that morning just stared, and he couldn't help noticing she'd gone a little pale.

"Everything okay?" he asked, not sure what had his friend so riveted.

"Don't you know what day it is?" she asked, never taking her eyes off the envelopes.

Harry thought about that and then shook his head.

"Not a clue," he admitted.

"Those are our NEWT results," Draco said, tone completely casual.

Now Harry understood Hermione's fixation. If there was one thing Hermione would always worry about, even though she was the cleverest witch of her generation, it would be exam results.

"Someone pass them down this way before anyone faints," Draco said as the pile just sat there.

Seamus grabbed the stack and quickly began to shuffle through it, passing down envelopes and throwing his own carelessly beside his plate. The first thing Harry noticed was that he and Draco only had one envelope addressed to both of them. It made sense given how they were viewed by the Wizarding World, but he still hadn't expected it.

"You can open it," he said to Draco, far more interested in his eggs than what might be in the envelope.

"What if I failed?" Hermione said very quietly.

Harry couldn't help noticing Draco give a very exaggerated look around.

"Nope," Draco said, "no horsemen on the horizon. If you don't have all Os I will sing the school song, standing on the table on one leg."

"I'll join him," Harry added.

Hermione gave them both a little smile for that.

"And I'll volunteer as a tester at Fred and George's shop," Ron added.

[Points to Ronald,] Draco commented.

[Safe bet though,] Harry replied and gave his soulmate a grin. [Are you going to open ours?]

[In a minute,] Draco replied.

It was said casually, but the thing about their connection was, it wasn't just words that came across. Harry realised there was a prickle of anxiety under them.

[You'll have Os too,] he said, [don't worry.]

[I'm not worried,] Draco said, which was clearly a lie, but Harry knew when not to push.

He had perfect faith in Draco's abilities and Draco had managed to rub off on him. Where they had both taken an exam their results would have been averaged and Harry was almost positive Draco's excellence would have been enough to drag their combined marks up to O even if his alone had been E. Where just Draco had been taking the exam, he had no doubt it would be an O.

When no one moved to open their enveloped Seamus gave an exaggerated sigh and picked up his. He clearly wasn't worried in the slightest and tore it open.

"Me Ma is gonna be so proud. Got the lot. Not a P a D or a T in sight."

The Irish Gryffindor waved his letter in the air and patted himself on the back, which lowered the tension level somewhat.

"Congrats," Harry said.

Hermione took a deep breath, looked at everyone else and opened her letter in a flurry of movement. She took another huge gulp of air before unfolding the piece of paper. Harry could literally feel her nervousness from where he was sitting. He was pretty sure everyone at the table was holding their breath in anticipation.

"Os," she said with a small smile and her shoulders sagged in relief.

"Well done, Hermione," Dean said.

One by one all the others opened their letters as well, but Draco did not touch his and Harry's. Some results were good, some were average, but, significantly, none were bad. Harry suspected their year was full of very focused people for obvious reasons.

Ron got Es and Os and, before they were the last at the table, Harry finally had enough and picked up the envelope Draco was refusing to look at. He opened it, scanned it and felt thoroughly satisfied.

[All Os,] he said. [You're a genius, Love, it couldn't have been anything else. I should be thanking you for dragging me up with you.]

[Says the man who figured out a new way to Apparate by accident,] Draco commented as if he hadn't been worried at all.

"Full house?" Hermione asked as Draco casually accepted the letter when Harry passed it to him.

"Of course," Harry replied and grinned, "Draco's right behind you at the top of every class, and I didn't screw anything up badly enough to bring us down."

It was then the normal owls arrived and one dropped a copy of the Prophet right in the middle of the table. It was hard to miss the headline: "Highest NEWT Grades Ever Recorded".

"Y'know it would have been nice to see that first," Lavender commented.

It just backed up what Harry thought about his fellow seventh years. Maybe his presence in their year hadn't been as disruptive as he had always suspected.

Chapter Text

It had been a very long summer and with only a week and two days left before the Hogwarts pupils were to arrive back there was little time left before some would be leaving the school forever. The last week was to be a holiday for those who had worked so hard all through July and August, and Harry and Draco planned to spend it with Ron at the Weasleys. Molly had invited them almost before the holiday had been announced, and it was difficult to turn down an invitation from a Weasley, especially the matriarch of the family. Hermione was spending the first three days with them as well and then would be heading home to catch up with her parents.

It seemed like over the last week all people had done was talk about what they would be doing once the summer was over, and on the Friday evening Dumbledore finally instigated his course of action. When Harry and Draco had returned to their room they had found a note on their pillow asking them to be present at a meeting in the headmaster's office the next day at ten sharp. The postscript had requested that they tell no one about the gathering.

"Dumbledore has made his choice then," had been the closet Draco could come to a witty comment.

He had enjoyed a summer with his friends where house rivalries had been reduced to the playful one-upmanship that it was supposed to be, and he could not help but be worried that the headmaster's plan would upset that again. There were only thirteen posts left and there were more ex-seventh years at the summer school. Draco knew that Dumbledore was not as biased as he had once thought, but the headmaster was known to favour other houses above his own.

Hence when he and Harry walked, hand in hand towards Dumbledore's office the next morning, he could not help but be a little nervous. When he saw Pansy in the cluster of ex-pupils waiting outside the gargoyle he was at first filled with surprised happiness and then automatically counted the number of people to see if what they had assumed the meeting was about could be correct. There were several Gryffindors including Ron and Hermione, but not all of those who had stayed from that house were present.

[Ten so far,] Draco concluded silently as he nodded at Pansy in greeting, [would he have called us all here?]

[I don't think so,] Harry replied, and Draco was pretty sure his soulmate had been doing his own headcount. [It would be too awkward for those not chosen, and Dumbledore doesn't like to make people feel awkward.]

[Unless it serves his purpose,] Draco said and gave his lover a look.

Harry was not naïve, but every now and then he said such Gryffindor things it was almost painful; Draco considered it his duty to point them out. Looking at his watch it was only ten to ten so everyone milling around was painfully early. No one seemed to be in the mood to chat and there was only the odd whispered conversation as they all waited patiently.

At about five to Susan Bones arrived and quickly took a place next to Hannah Abbot, appearing embarrassed at turning up after just about everyone else; then much to Draco's growing delight Goyle appeared and gave him an understated smile before walking over to Pansy; and it wasn't until just before ten that Seamus can hurtling round the corner.

"Who died?" the Irish Gryffindor asked with a huge grin as everyone looked at him.

Draco fought the urge to roll his eyes; it was so typical of Seamus to be loud and totally ignore the ambiance of the situation into which he was entering.

"No one, I hope, Mr Finnegan," Professor McGonagall's calm tones put in with perfect timing, "although I am sure it can be arranged if you are volunteering."

There was amusement underlying the head of Gryffindor's voice, but Draco was pleased to see that Seamus had the good sense to blush.

"Oh, I don't think that would be a good idea, Professor," the Irish boy said lightly. "After surviving seven years at Hogwarts, me ole Da's heart wouldn't take it if I was to pop me clogs now."

"Quite," Professor McGonagall said with the smallest of smiles, and the crowd of ex-students parted for her as she walked towards the gargoyle. "Chocolate limes," she said.

The gargoyle immediately moved, revealing the stairs upwards. Draco slotted in behind Harry, shielding him from everyone behind as they followed the first few up the spiral steps. As far as Draco was concerned, Dumbledore's office was more bizarre every time he entered it. The headmaster had to be doing arcane experiments on his desk or something; it was the only explanation for the décor.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," Dumbledore greeted as soon as everyone was arrayed in front of his desk, "and welcome."

Looking at the headmaster sitting like a king among his books with Fawkes sitting on his perch to the right, Draco had to admit that Dumbledore knew how to capture an audience. There was complete silence in the room as the headmaster slowly rose to his feet.

[It's at times like this I remember he defeated Grindelwald,] Harry's voice sounded in his mind, and Draco had to agree.

[I think we're in for a serious speech,] he concluded and glared at Terry Boot as the Ravenclaw dared to bump into Harry.

For his part, Harry did not seem to have noticed, which was both a testament to Hilde's training and the excitement of the situation, but did not mean that Harry was not going to start realising he was in a confined space with a lot of people very shortly. With this in mind Draco carefully began to move them to the edge of the group.

"Firstly," Dumbledore spoke with a warm, but sober tone, "I must thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for your hard toil this summer. It is not often that a year group make me so proud, but I have seen you overcome house divisions and achieve magical competence in fields far beyond your years."

The headmaster paused and Draco knew that the root of the conversation was about to be revealed. Slipping his arm around Harry, he pulled his soulmate close and was rewarded with a warm smile.

"I suspect most of you are wondering why every member of your year who remained here this summer is not present at this meeting," Dumbledore continued, moving out from behind his desk until he was in front for the group.

[Do you think they'll be angry with us for not telling them?] Harry's voice in his mind distracted him from watching the carefully orchestrated manoeuvres the headmaster was carrying out.

It was so like his lover to start worrying about these things now when it was clearly too late to do anything about it, especially since they were surrounded.

[A little, probably,] Draco replied thoughtfully, [but it is all Dumbledore's fault, and he's unlikely to leave us up to our necks.]

Harry didn't exactly feel nervous as far as he could tell, but his soulmate was not as relaxed as he had been and Draco tightened his grip just slightly.

"Hogwarts will be a focus in the coming conflict," the headmaster began what had to be his explanation. "Some in the Ministry see it as merely a school, but all who have passed through it know that these walls are far more than simply a castle. I have no doubt that Voldemort will turn his attention to our beloved hallways; which is why I have advocated teaching those pupils I believe to be the strongest of character to defend themselves and their fellows, and why I and the governors have chosen to expand the staff for the coming year."

That caused a ripple of sound to pass among those gathered, but they quieted quickly when Dumbledore pulled himself to his full height. Draco was once again impressed with the headmaster's mastery of people.

"This year will see the duties of the teaching staff increase significantly as we look to the defence of our school as well at the education of our pupils," Dumbledore continued once he had everyone's attention again. "Hence it has been decided to give every Professor and head of department an assistant to aid then. The duties of these new positions will not be easy, but they will be very necessary in the coming months. It gave me great pleasure to offer two of these positions to Mr Malfoy and Mr Potter at the beginning of the summer; and it gave me yet greater pleasure when they accepted."

Every eye in the room was suddenly turned in their direction and Draco chose an expression somewhere between a smirk and a friendly smile.

"I requested that they not reveal this until today," the headmaster said after a moment's pause, "so please do not blame them."

[Told you,] Draco said with as much confidence as he could muster, but he had not failed to notice that there was a slightly hurt look in Ron's eyes.

If there was one thing that could be guaranteed it was that Harry's best friend would take anything like this the wrong way. With this in mind, Draco began to plan how to nip the whole reaction in the bud as soon as possible.

"Mr Potter has agreed to be our new assistant flying coach, as well as taking on duties in regards to the new Defence Against the Dark Arts society which will be starting next year, and Mr Malfoy is our new assistant Potions professor," Dumbledore told everyone and dragged their attention back to him. "There are thirteen additional positions to be filled."

Several people glanced around then and it did not take a genius to see when the majority of those gathered realised that there were thirteen ex-seventh years, other than Harry and Draco, in the room. For a fraction of a second Pansy appeared completely flabbergasted, but covered it quickly with her usual mask.

"It gives me the greatest pleasure to invite each one of you to join the Hogwarts staff for the coming year," were the headmaster's next words. "Please consider the offer carefully. You are the staff's unanimous choices for the positions, and although we would understand if you feel you cannot commit to Hogwarts, we would sorely miss you."

As Draco watched the faces of his year mates he could see shock and surprise melting into something else entirely.

[They'll all say yes,] Harry said silently and Draco could not help but agree.

It was now that Professor McGonagall moved up to stand beside the headmaster, and a pile of parchment scrolls appeared on the desk behind them.

[I wondered what that was,] was Harry's comment on the appearance.

[I take it you could see something before,] Draco replied, quite used to his soulmate's odd observations.

[There was this blob of magic,] Harry explained. [It must have been a concealing charm.]

"These documents are the offers of employment," Professor McGonagall said in her usual serious manner. "Please read them carefully, and return them signed or unsigned by the time you leave on Monday."

The nervousness in the room had changed from one of anticipation to one of wondering where they would be put, and Draco was beginning to enjoy it. As the headmaster picked up the first scroll the whole room held its breath.

"Miss Granger," Dumbledore began with a smile, "you have shown brilliance in all subjects that it has ever been our delight to teach you. As such it was decided that there is only one position which would reflect this diversity. Madame Pince, it seems, may be quite persuasive when she wishes, since many others wanted you as well, and so I offer you the position of assistant Librarian, and specifically, curator of the Restricted section, which I fear will be required far more in the coming year than ever before."

Hermione walked forward and accepted the document with a small 'thank you'. From her profile, which was all Draco could see, he had no doubt that the most brilliant mind at Hogwarts was already planning changes to her new domain. It was then that Fawkes made himself known, flying from his perch and landing on Hermione's shoulder, trilling softly. After nipping her ear playfully the bird hopped onto the desk. Draco had the feeling that there would be some invitations of a more secret kind going out some time in the new school year as well.

"Mr Weasley," the headmaster continued as Professor McGonagall passed him the next scroll, "I have to admit that there was almost a rift in my teaching staff as two vied for you. In the end, Professor Trelawney declared that she had foreseen your gift at Divination and would not be argued with."

That caused a laugh to go round the room, and Ron looked rather confused. Draco could not help but grin; Ron really had no idea about Divination, but sometimes the things the Gryffindor said had a strange way of coming true.

"I do hope you will consider the position of assistant Professor of Divination," Dumbledore said with a warm smile, "and Mr Potter requested you as his second for the DADA association."

When Ron glanced at Harry, Draco could see the pride shining in his eyes, and the hurt at having secrets kept seemed to have been buried, but he did not drop the plans that were still bubbling away in the back of his mind. Fawkes also gave his approval to Ron and then the invitations began in earnest.

It went on from there, with words of praise for all those present and the presentation of the scrolls. Justin Finch-Fletchley was offered the post of assistant to Madam Pomfrey; Michael Corner, assistant Professor of Ancient Runes; Ernie Macmillan, assistant Professor of Astronomy; Anthony Goldstein assistant Professor of Arithmancy; Seamus, assistant Professor of Charms; Susan Bones, assistant Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts; Neville, assistant Professor of Herbology; Terry Boot, assistant Professor of History of Magic; and Hannah Abbot, assistant Professor of Muggle studies.

Draco wasn't sure who was most shocked, Goyle or the Gryffindors in the room, when the Slytherin was offered assistant Professor of Care of Magical Creatures. Very few would have recognised the Slytherin's love of animals since Draco knew for a fact Greg's father had informed his son that it was a weakness and never to be revealed. Fawkes spent a good minute on Goyle's shoulder, singing to him softly, before the bird would let the Slytherin back into the crowd.

However, there was one big surprise and that was Pansy. She was announced about halfway through and she had been offered the post of assistant Professor of Transfiguration. That the head of Gryffindor had chosen a Slytherin above her own; that was what caused the biggest stir of the whole meeting.

"Thank you all for coming," Dumbledore said after the last person returned to their place. "I hope to see as many of you as possible returning to us for the coming school year. Now I would give a speech about quite how proud I am of each and every one of you, but I am an old man who enjoys the sound of his own voice, where as I can see you are all bursting to talk to one another, so I feel it my duty to let you go."

Everyone seemed to remember that they were teenagers at that point and noise filled to office. Draco and Harry hung back as everyone else headed for the way out and then, with a small wave to the Professors they followed their friends.

Chapter Text

They were a diverse group and, as such, they gravitated towards the Great Hall rather than a particular common room. Not that it was unusual to find other houses visiting each other after the summer classes. The hall was almost empty with only a small group of younger students chatting at the door end of what was usually the Hufflepuff table. Harry noted the curious glances their way as they all headed for the far end of the Slytherin table and sat down.

"That was unexpected," Pansy was the first to speak and she fixed Draco with a very particular stare.

"The headmaster swore us to secrecy," Draco said, not bothered in the slightest. "He didn't want anyone to know until he had made his decision."

"So this summer was a test?" Susan asked.

"No," Harry put in his own opinion, "it was mostly to prepare everyone for what is coming."

He couldn't help feeling a little guilty.

[Not your fault you've been targeted by a madman since you were a baby,] Draco said all but instantly.

"But it was probably useful to help the staff choose who they wanted," Harry continued out loud while sending back a mental hug of thanks for Draco's affirmation.

"Did you help them decide?" that came from Neville.

"We had nothing to do with it," Draco replied for them both. "This was all Dumbledore and the rest of the teachers and staff."

"I had an internship lined up," Anthony Goldstein said as he looked at his scroll, "I guess I will have to postpone that."

"It's not compulsory to say yes," Harry felt he had to point out.

Thirteen faces looked at him in exactly the same way and he felt Draco's mental eye roll.

"Like 'no' is an option," Seamus said.

"Actually it is," Draco said and surprised Harry. "You all have to think about this very carefully. Dumbledore thinks you're the best for the roles, the rest of the staff think so too and, if it helps, Harry and I can't find fault with their choices, but this has to be each of your decision."

[You rolled your eyes at me, I felt you,] Harry silently complained.

[Because you felt the need to say it so earnestly,] Draco replied, [but I accept the sentiment.]

"Personally I can't think of a better first entry for a CV," Michael Corner said. "Anyone have a quill?"

"Me Ma might expire of happiness," Seamus agreed.

Of course Hermione had a quill, although Harry had no idea where she had been keeping it, and one by one the members of the group used it. Every time someone put their name to paper, Harry felt a small tremor in the magic around him. Of course he shared it with Draco.

[Hogwarts is accepting them,] Draco said and sounded just a little bit in awe even though it didn't remotely show on the outside.

Pansy was last and made a show of reading her scroll carefully first, but she still signed it. As soon as she did Harry felt more than a slight tremor in the power of the school. What came at him was a rush of warmth that made his skin tingle.

"Hogwarts says thank you," he said and beamed at his friends.

"You're weird," Justin commented and made everyone laugh.

As if on cue a house elf popped into existence just beside Harry, who was sitting on the end of the bench with Draco between him and the rest of the group.

"Would the masters and mistresses be wanting Milly to be taking the scrolls to Headmaster Dumbledore?" the small elf asked politely.

Harry looked around the table and everyone gave a small nod.

"Thank you, Milly," Harry said, "that would be lovely."

Milly's ears twitched with pleasure before she vanished along with the scrolls.

"Well that was easy," Hermione commented.

When cocoa and cookies appeared in place of the scrolls Harry had to conclude that the house elves were pleased with the situation too.

"This evening is going well," Seamus said with a grin and reached for one of the mugs.

"I'll drink to that," Ernie agreed and joined him.

Harry didn't need to be offered cocoa twice and Draco fell on his like a starving man. It was never a good idea to get between Draco and sweet things, especially chocolate.

"What do we tell the others?" Hannah asked as they all tucked in.

"The truth," Draco said, which clearly wasn't what most of the table expected him to say. "If the headmaster had wanted us to keep this secret he would have told us, since he didn't, he wants people to know."

"He wants everyone to be talking about it when they go home," Pansy concluded.

"Oh," Ron said, "yeah, I get it."

Of course their master strategist would understand the move.

[Voldemort will know about it before lunch tomorrow,] Harry commented.

[And he will be furious,] Draco replied.

[Sometimes I still think it would be easier if I went and stood on a mountain and yelled 'here I am' until he showed up.]

[That's because you have a hero complex, which is why you bonded with me, I don't.]

Harry might have argued that point.

[Now what do we say in situations like this?] Draco asked.

[Draco is right, always listen to Draco,] Harry dutifully replied with a very small smile.

That some of their year would be leaving for what was likely to be for good felt strange, that others of them were staying did not.

* * *

As far as Harry could tell, everyone had spoken to their housemates about becoming members of staff as soon as they had returned to their house common rooms. In Gryffindor it was obvious some people were disappointed they hadn't been chosen, although a couple looked relieved, but everyone was very supportive. Saturday morning Dumbledore had made an announcement about it to everyone anyway, making it all official, and there had been applause all round. There was going to be an official celebration at the last meal of the summer school on Sunday evening, but it was only Saturday afternoon so that was a way away yet.

Harry did not expect the house elf that popped into existence as he read a letter from the bank. She was carrying a huge bundle of cloth that was swamping her.

"Here, let me help," he said, leaping to the small creature's aid.

"Lansey is much obliged to Harry Potter," she said as he took what looked surprisingly like robes from her. "Headmaster Dumbledore is asking the house elves to give all the new professors their official robes."

"Official robes?" Harry asked. "What official robes?"

"You is holding them Harry Potter," Lansey said as if it was obvious.

It was, but of course that wasn't what Harry had been asking. Not that he expected to get a straight answer from a house elf.

"Thank you very much, Lansey," is what he decided to say.

"You is welcome," she said and popped back out of existence.

[Draco,] he called to his soulmate who was currently playing chess with Ron downstairs, [did Albus mention anything to you about robes?]

[No, what robes?] Draco asked.

Harry was about to reply when he felt a small shock of surprise from Draco.

[Ah, I assume you mean the robes delivered by house elf,] Draco said. [One just arrived for Ron. Am I to assume you have mine and yours.]

[Yep,] Harry said. [I thought professors didn't have official robes.]

[They don't, but I think it might be to make sure we look older than we are,] Draco replied. [Can you imagine what Ron would look like if just left to dress himself.]

[Hermione would sort him out,] Harry replied.

[Unless he was stubborn,] Draco replied and walked through the door. "Now let's see those robes."

Clearly Draco was very curious if he had just run up all the stairs in the boys tower.

Harry didn't argue and simply handed over the top robe. As Draco held it up, Harry could tell it was mostly black, but there was an edging on it in silver, gold, light metallic blue and light metallic yellow.

"Nice touch," Draco commented.

There was also a large Hogwarts emblem on the right side with the word "Magister" in gold lettering.

"What does that mean?" Harry asked.

"Teacher," Draco replied.

Of course Draco had to try on his new robe and slipped it over his current clothes. Even though it was the same colour as the normal school robes it was cut differently and there was something much more imposing about it.

"It makes you look very professional," Harry said, which earned him a smile.

"Try yours on then," Draco said.

Doing his best to ignore the fact he had just realised he might have a "professional" kink, Harry climbed to his feet and did as he was told. From the way Draco's eyes ran up and down him as he straightened out the robes, he guessed he wasn't the only one who liked the view.

"And you already have the glasses," Draco said, licking his lips.

That just confirmed it. Harry let his connection with Draco open onto a conscious level and discovered just how confirmed it was.

"Maybe we could play student and teacher?" Draco suggested with a wicked grin.

"Bags you play the teacher first," Harry agreed.

Possibly Dumbledore had never anticipated just what effect his gift would have on some of his previous students, but Harry didn't mind in the slightest. He took a step towards Draco, with every intention of kissing his soulmate soundly.

"Hey, Mates," Ron's voice came up the stairs, followed by their ginger haired friend, "why would Dumbledore give us robes? Does he think we're too poor to buy our own?"

[Don't hex him,] Harry said very rapidly and turned his attention to Ron.

One day his friend would get over his pride, but Harry didn't think it would be soon.

"Of course not," he said, trying to picture anything except Draco in his robe, "I think we're supposed to be a symbol."

"We're the light united," Draco added, sounding far less flustered than he felt on the inside. "The best of Hogwarts standing for Hogwarts."

Ron's frown cleared.

"Oh yeah," Ron said, "that makes sense. I was being an idiot again wasn't I."

"We all have our triggers."

Harry was surprised when that came from Draco. Sometimes Draco thought these things, but he still rarely said them out loud. Ron looked positively shocked.

"Crisis over?" Draco asked, crossing to where Ron was stood in the doorway.

Ron's frown was back, but this time it radiated confusion rather than suspicion.

"What?" Ron asked.

"Good," was all Draco said, "because Harry and I need some time. There's magic in the robes and we need to get Harry adjusted to it."

Harry lowered his barriers somewhat and he could indeed see there was some magic in the robes, however, it wasn't remotely interfering with him at all.

[Shut up,] Draco told him silently before he could say anything.

"Oh," Ron said, "of course. What magic?"

"Not sure yet," Draco said far too quickly, "go and ask Hermione, she's probably figured it out already."

Then he shut the door in Ron's face before Ron could so much a say any more.

"Was that really necessary?" Harry asked.

Draco turned to him and stared.

"I think that deserves a detention, Mr Potter," Draco said and the light dawned on Harry.

"What did you say about detention?" Ron's voice came from the other side of the door.

"Ron, go away," Harry decided this required the direct approach. "Give us half," Draco shook his head, "give us an hour," Harry corrected, "and we'll be down."

"Don't need any help from me and Hermione?" Ron checked.

"Nope," he replied, "definitely not, we'll be fine, thanks."

Draco was giving him a very hungry look. If Ron didn't leave soon he was going to hear things he really didn't want to.

"Okay, if you're sure."

"We're sure," Draco all but snapped back.

"Thanks, Ron," he added, but all his attention was now on Draco and the pure lust he could feel coming from his soulmate.

At last he heard the sounds of Ron's footsteps going back down the stairs and he breathed a sigh of relief.

"Professor Malfoy, I'm so sorry," he said. "Does it have to be detention?"

"I'm afraid it does, Mr Potter," Draco said, "and you'll be serving it right here."

Harry only hoped that he didn't get hard every time someone mentioned detention after this.

Chapter Text

Draco spent a good five minutes putting up security charms of various sorts around the classroom as soon as he and Harry arrived. They had decided that their friends needed to know what they had been working on before someone asked the wrong questions in the wrong places and gave the game away to the wrong people.

Looking around the room, Draco was pretty sure that he had everything covered, but he waited as he felt Harry shifting his barriers to check in a much more direct manner. If he had not been quite so focused on the upcoming meeting he might have let himself enjoy the sensation that always ran through him when his soulmate allowed more of the world in. The feelings that had terrified Harry and worried Draco were now somehow comforting to Draco when they occurred in safe surroundings.

"Perfect as ever," Harry said with a smile when he finished his scan.

"What's perfect?" Pansy asked as she walked through the door.

"Silencing, anti-scanning and anti-eavesdropping charms," Draco said, knowing that his friend would understand the implication.

"Oh, it's that kind of gathering," was Pansy's response. "Finally going to tell us why you two have been sneaking off to the library and the Room of Requirements when you think no one is looking."

There was no way to completely keep a secret in Hogwarts, all anyone could hope for was to keep people misdirected or wondering until you were ready to tell them. Draco has accepted this many years ago. That he and Harry had managed to keep what they had been working on away from public knowledge was what had been important to him, rather than other's knowing that they were actually up to something. It was easy enough to produce a believable cover story for their antics, but if the truth came out there would be danger to the whole Wizarding world.

"What else?" Draco responded with a superior smirk.

[I shouldn't be surprised, should I?] Harry commented silently, and Draco could not help his smirk turning into a loving smile as he looked at his soulmate.

[No, you shouldn't be,] he said honestly, [but you're getting better. Back in sixth year you'd have been flabbergasted that anyone had noticed.]

That made Harry laugh and Draco turned back to Pansy to find her watching both of them.

"Some people would consider that rude," she said in a mild tone.

"And others would consider it very useful for having private conversations," Draco replied in kind. "I am training Harry to find his Slytherin side, and I really don't want the rest of the world to know how far I have yet to go."

That most definitely amused Pansy, and she shook her head and smiled. Draco let himself enjoy the moment. There had been a time when he was sure he would never be able to relax in the presence of his house mates again. No matter their peculiar rules of conduct and the games they played, the Slytherins had been his friends for years, some of them from before school, and he was glad to have at least two of them back.

Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny and Seamus chose that moment to appear together and walked through the doorway.

"Ooh, better watch it, the Slytherins are conspiring," was Seamus' first comment, which drew a haughty expression of disdain from Pansy.

What caught Draco's attention was the flicker of a smile that threatened on his friend's face before the other expression fixed itself in place. Now a Gryffindor might have missed it entirely, or put it down to the fact that Seamus had a habit of spreading around his seemingly, perpetually amused mood when he walked into a room, but Draco was definitely not a Gryffindor.

[Does Pansy fancy Seamus?] now Harry sounded shocked.

[You saw it too?] Draco asked, quite surprised, but very pleased that his lessons had begun to working on his soulmate.

[Well, actually I saw something, and felt you react, ] his lover confessed, [but am I right?]

Draco watched as the Gryffindors spread out around the room and kept an eye on where Pansy was looking. His fellow Slytherin did not seem to be aware of the scrutiny, and she had looked at Seamus three times before finally turning back to Draco.

[Oh, I think you may be,] he said with delight, and could not contain his mirth as it produced the slightest of smiles on his face.

Pansy's eyes opened slightly in shock, and then she glared at him for good measure. This was going to be fun; Pansy knew she was caught, and Draco was going to enjoy this. He had taken a lot of ribbing for being with a Gryffindor, and the fact that Pansy had a thing for Seamus, who was the epitome of Gryffindorish act-first-and-think-later behaviour, was too good to pass up.

[Want me to check how much?] Harry asked, amused as well.

[No, that would be cheating,] Draco replied, enjoying every moment, [but hold that in reserve just in case.]

Their conversation was interrupted by Greg arriving, and he looked around at everyone already there.

"Not late am I?" he asked apologetically.

"No, Greg," Draco assured his one-time bodyguard, "we haven't started yet."

With a flick of his wand, Draco sealed the final charm on the door. Now nothing could make it in or out that they did not want to. No one commented on the obvious security arrangements, which rather spoke volumes about their mental attitude at the moment.

"Most of you have probably noticed the Draco and I have been ..." Harry started to explain and then looked at Draco for help.

"Sneaking around," he offered and drew smiles from most of those present.

Harry rolled his eyes and turned back to the others.

"Well that's because we found something out, something that could be incredibly useful and incredibly dangerous until certain things are in place."

Draco was happy to let his soulmate start and he let Harry take the lead, but it seemed that his Gryffindorish lover did not quite know how to begin.

"Harry found a new way to Apparate," Draco said bluntly, "which makes every anti-Apparating ward or spell useless."

That produced shocked stares from everyone in the room.

"Bloody hell," Ron said and vocalised what everyone seemed to be thinking, "that means Hogwarts is defenceless."

"It was," Harry put in quickly, and Draco could feel the nervous excitement in his soulmate, "but that's what we've been doing; trying to figure out how to protect places like this."

"With Professor Dumbledore's help we added to the school's wards just before the N.E.W.T.s results arrived," Draco explained, "and there are plans to do the same at the Ministry and other secure locations."

Now the group seemed to be of one mind in their relief, except for Hermione who appeared to have gone beyond worried, and into trying to work out what on earth her friend could have discovered.

"There's also another reason not to worry too much," Draco continued once he had let the news sink in; "we think it is highly unlikely that anyone without Harry's abilities could figure out how to travel this way. That's the other thing Dumbledore has us doing, trying to see if there is any way we can teach this to other people. Hence Harry has his first new spell project. Until then, no one outside of Hogwarts is being told what he's working on, only that places need protecting."

"So how does it work?" Hermione, it seemed, could not contain her curiosity any longer.

Draco gave Harry an encouraging smile and handed back the reins. This was his soulmate's discovery and he wanted Harry to explain it.

"It uses the same principle as Apparating," Harry began, "only it connects the two places differently. When you Apparate you blast a hole in the fabric of the universe; that's the bang, but it's a very brutal way to go about things. Considering how delicate the disassembling yourself and putting yourself back together is, it's rather barbaric."

Draco only just managed to keep a grin off his face at the sound of outrage in Harry's voice. It never ceased to amuse him how his soulmate could be so incensed about magic these days. Harry's eyes flicked over towards him, and Draco knew his amusement had been noticed.

"What we found and managed to use," Harry continued, looking back to the group, "is another route for the matter you convert yourself into. The universe is energy, and energy has memory, and connections remain where energy has touched other energy. These connections can be used like wires from one place to another."

Harry stopped talking, and Draco couldn't blame him since every face in the room was looking completely amazed and several were staring at Harry in something akin to awe. Even Greg appeared to have picked up on the enormity of the revelation, and he was known to be a little slow about these things at times.

"Harry," eventually Hermione spoke, "you do know that that is one of the most unique concepts I have ever heard?"

"What?" as usual, Harry did not seem to realise that he had stepped over some very high boundaries.

It occurred to Draco that maybe he should have thought about it a bit more, but he had been so busy doing, that he had not stopped to consider what it was that his soulmate had found. Looking at it from an outside perspective it was quite a radical proposition.

"Energy has memory, Harry," Hermione said as if explaining to six year old. "How on earth did you come to that conclusion?"

"I saw it," Harry said rather helplessly.

"You mean one day you just woke up and it was there?" Pansy sounded incredulous, and Draco could not blame Harry for looking suddenly nervous if he was being tag teamed by the two girls.

His soulmate frowned and Draco moved a little closer to offer his support, but there was no way he was trying to explain this.

"No," Harry replied, honestly, "it was when I was watching the Apparating practice. It caused such a backlash every time someone did it that I was rather desperate to find an alternative. Then it was just there."

"And you went hurtling out of the Animagus lesson like you were being chased by a dragon," Pansy concluded, looking at Draco now.

He just nodded.

"It was rather overwhelming," Harry admitted honestly, "at first I couldn't stop it."

"That was when we proved the theory," Draco decided it was best if the others knew everything. "Harry was like an open flood gate and he passed all the information on to me and in my panic I used it. I disappeared from outside the Transfigurations classroom and reappeared next to Harry. We have used it since as well, but we haven't figured out how to let others see the connections yet."

"We wanted you to know so we don't have to keep lying and making excuses," Harry added.

"And we were hoping you could play interference for us so no one else gets too curious," Draco said.

"Interference is me middle name," Seamus said grandly and broke some of the tension in the room.

"And there's me thinking it was Paddy," Draco shot back in what, even he, had to admit was the worst impression of an Irish accent he had ever heard.

Luckily Seamus took it in the humour it was meant.

"So what are we supposed to say?" Hermione asked the practical question.

"Something about Harry and I studying his condition," Draco explained. "No need to be specific, just be vague and make it sound as if we don't really want to talk about it."

"Blame it on me being embarrassed at still being so far behind where I should be," Harry suggested. "That will completely put off the Hufflepuffs and the Gryffindors at least. If necessary we'll leave out some fake clues for the Ravenclaws and Slytherins."

Draco had been brought up in the Slytherin mindset all his life, but even he realised that the way their friends just accepted that as if it was perfectly normal said a lot about what they had all seen in their childhoods.

"Do you think you'll be able to figure out a way to teach the technique to other people?" Ginny asked and snapped him out of his reflection.

"Maybe," Harry said.

"But at the moment we're really more focused on making sure everywhere is protected, just in case," Draco added.

"What do these connections look like?" Hermione asked.

As Harry tried to explain, Draco stood back and let his soulmate talk. Of course Hermione wanted to know the details and, surprisingly, Neville joined in the conversation as well. Draco allowed himself to enjoy Harry's enthusiasm as he got into the topic, even though it was so potentially dangerous.

Chapter Text

"Where do you think we'll be staying?" Ron asked as he, Hermione, Draco and Harry walked towards the Great Hall for the final meal of the summer holidays.

"No doubt Dumbledore has something planned," Hermione said and Harry nodded.

"Since everyone is on the train back to London tomorrow I doubt we'll know before we come back," he added.

"I doubt it will be house based," Draco added his own opinion on the matter. "I'm not even sure where there is room to put us all up."

"Hogwarts will make room," Harry said and smiled.

At the back of his mind, Draco could feel Harry kind of exchanging a polite hello with the school as he spoke about it. It was something he'd noticed Harry doing since he had put the new ward in place. Draco wasn't even sure his soulmate was aware he did it, but something about it felt right, so Draco wasn't about to argue.

"I don't want anyone to ever try and explain how," Ron said before Hermione could so much as open her mouth.

"I'm not really sure anyone quite knows," was Hermione's surprising admission and Draco had to agree.

There were so many things about Hogwarts that were lost to the mists of time. The Founders had done some remarkable things with their school.

"Don't even think about making it a side project," Draco said before Harry could get any ideas.

"I'm not that bonkers," Harry replied as they walked into the Great Hall.

As a group they stopped.

It wasn't that the Great Hall was decorated with summer greenery and flowers, or that the sky in the ceiling was a lovely blue with bright sunshine, even though it was a bit of a grey day outside. It was the arrangement of the tables.

"Talking of Hogwarts changing things," Draco commented.

There were no longer four tables and benches. Two of the tables were gone and the other two, just enough to seat all the summer students, were now curved into half circles, facing each other with about two metres between each end.

"Looks like Dumbledore is making a thing of house unity," Ron said.

"Yeah," Harry agreed.

[Nothing subtle about this one,] Draco commented silently.

[I bet everyone will be talking about this for weeks,] Harry replied.

"Where shall we sit?" Hermione asked.

"Let's grab the far end," Harry suggested, "no one's sitting there yet."

Even though the tables were no longer straight it appeared as if those who had already arrived were still congregating in year groups. Some habits would never die, it seemed. Draco suspected that one day Albus would do away with house restricted seating altogether, except for feasts, and everybody would have to like it or lump it.

* * *

As usual there were some stragglers rushing into the Great Hall at the last minute, but everyone was sat down before Dumbledore stood up at the High Table. It was crowded up the teacher's end because all the summer instructors were there as well. Harry wasn't actually sure everyone should have fitted, and the whole area glimmered if he lowered his shields a little, so he was pretty sure there was magic involved.

"Welcome everyone," the Headmaster said as a hush fell over those gathered. "First I would like to say how proud you have all made me over this summer holiday, students and teachers alike. There were those who expressed great doubt that our endeavours were even possible, yet every person here has exceeded all expectations.

"To those who have taught our summer subjects, many of who have had no previous experience teaching young people, thank you. You have all worked tirelessly to make this summer a success.

"To the students who have persevered through studies way beyond their years, thank you also. Your dedication and desire to learn have made the efforts of your teachers perfectly worthwhile.

"I hope none of you will need the skills you have taught and learned in the days ahead, however, I let you all leave tomorrow knowing that you are prepared should any of you be faced with the worst. Those of you leaving us for pastures new or returning to their normal occupations, I wish you all the best and send you off with my gratitude. To the students and staff returning to school in little over a week, I wish you a safe journey home and a good holiday.

"And finally, to those who have exceeded even my wildest imaginings and who have put on hold their existing plans and agreed to help protect this school and those within it, as well as act as assistants to the existing staff, thank you. Each one of you brings something unique to this institution that will enrich school life for the coming year. Take the next nine days and rest, I can guarantee you will need it."

Everyone laughed.

"And now, since I know the House Elves have outdone themselves, let us eat."

As the headmaster clapped his hands the tables were groaning with food. Harry wasn't sure he'd seen such a spread even at the Halloween Feast.

"Wow," Seamus said, which just about summed up what Harry was thinking as everyone dove in.

* * *

Arriving at the Weasleys was a rather chaotic affair. While most of the summer students had taken the train from Hogwarts, Ron and Hermione Apparated directly from Hogsmeade to the Burrow, but since Harry found the means of travel so uncomfortable Dumbledore was kind enough to provide a portkey. Transferring would have been easier, but it was too important a secret to use on something so trivial.

Thanks to Molly's paranoia that her son would manage to splinch himself if he tried anything too fancy when Apparating, Harry and Draco also had all the luggage. Hence when they arrived with a bag on each shoulder and their hands full, and Harry did his usual ungraceful sit down on landing, it caused great hilarity.

[I have no idea how someone so graceful on a broom can be so clumsy with every other form of transport known to man,] Draco said dryly as he put his hand out to help Harry to his feet.

[Wizard transport,] Harry replied and grinned at his lover, [I'd like to see you ride a bike.]

"Ronald Weasley, don't just stand there, help them," Molly's disapproving tone drew Harry's attention and he turned to see the woman come bustling out of the house.

Ron made a somewhat unrepentant grimace at Harry, but nevertheless, made to do as he was told as his mother took charge.

"Hermione, dear, it is so nice to see you again," Molly started with the closest and Harry couldn't help the goofy smile that appeared on his face as he watched Ron's mum mother his other best friend.

After a summer of serious study and preparation for war, Molly was such a breath of fresh air. Here, Harry could almost believe that he was twelve again and the most important thing to worry about was how many chocolate frogs Ron could eat without making himself sick. Of course at the age of twelve he hadn't been able to see the warm protective magic on the house, nor had he had someone in his life who made him complete; but it was a nice, if flawed illusion.

[I must be going mad,] Draco said in his mind as they waited for their turn to be mothered; [I think I'm actually becoming fond of this place.]

Harry decided that deserved a kiss, and leant over to give his soulmate a quick peck on the cheek.

[It's Weasley magic,] he promised with mock seriousness, [once they make you one of the family you just can't help it. Your pureblood pride and impeccable taste are quite safe.]

That earned him a raised eyebrow and a slight smile, but there was no time for a response as Molly reached Draco.

"My, I think you may have filled out a little since I last saw you," Ron's mum said as she gave Draco a once over. "You're looking as handsome as ever, just you be sure that you don't go breaking hearts when you start teaching."

It never failed to amaze Harry how a woman of Molly's size could appear to engulf someone clearly taller than herself, but as she wrapped Draco in a fierce hug, that is exactly what she did.

"I intend to be scarier than Snape," Draco said in a self important tone, which was belied by the smile on his face, "there will be no shattering of internal organs in my classroom."

"Unless Nev nips in to borrow a cauldron," Harry put in with a laugh.

Molly rolled her eyes in amusement.

"Boys!" was her expert opinion on the matter.

Then Harry found himself the centre of attention as Molly viewed him critically. When the woman gave him a huge smile, he knew he had passed muster.

"Now I know that you'll have first years trailing after you like love sick puppies," Molly said cheerfully, and then managed to engulf him in the briefest of hugs.

He was never going to be a touchy feely person ever again, except with Draco, but Harry enjoyed the brief contact, allowing the woman's love and welcome to wash through him. There were undercurrents of worry running through Molly, but that was what war did to people and he concentrated on the more prevalent emotions.

"Come on then," Ron's Mum said brightly, "I have tea and cake waiting inside."

By the time Molly had finished stuffing them with the richest chocolate cake Harry had ever seen, he thought he might be ill. The only one who did not seem to be having any problems with the amount of food was Ron, who had actually gone back for a third slice. Now Harry knew he could eat, but when it came to his mother's cooking, Ron had had far more practice.

[Harry, save me from the chocolate monster,] was Draco melodramatic response when Molly suggested that he might like another slice as well.

"If Draco eats any more sugar I won't be responsible for the consequences," Harry said with a grin, and was rewarded with a slap on the arm for his trouble.

"Ooh, sugar rushed Slytherin," Ron chimed in immediately. "Mum, Harry's right, that really wouldn't be pretty."

Draco's response was a look of disdain that could have frozen water; it just made Ron laugh.

"My talents are wasted on Gryffindors," Draco said with a mock sigh of resignation.

That drew a laugh from around the table.

"Well then," Molly said in her usual efficient but cheerful manner, "let's get you all settled. Hermione, I've put you in with Ginny. Harry, love, you and Draco are in Percy's old room. Ron, you'll be sharing with Charlie when he comes to visit on Wednesday, but until then your room's your own; I expect it to be kept tidy."

"Why can't Charlie sleep in Fred and George's old room?" Ron bemoaned, although he didn't sound too serious about it.

"Because Fred and George will be in it," Molly replied, as if everyone should have already known. "Bill and Percy wanted to visit as well, but they couldn't take the time off, so they'll only be here for dinner on Friday. We have to celebrate your N.E.W.T.s and your new job, Ron, dear."

It appeared that the event was turning into a Weasley gathering, and Harry could not help but smile as Ron blushed furiously as he found out that he was the reason for it.

"Mum," the bashful Gryffindor complained, much to the amusement of the rest present.

* * *

Hermione was going home in the morning and it was the first day Charlie could get away, so the celebration for Ron was happening on the Wednesday evening. The most strenuous thing any of them had done on the previous two days was eat as Molly insisted they all recuperate from their busy summer.

Harry had spent half of Tuesday asleep, which had pleased Draco no end. What with the summer classes, the saboteur and the wards, Harry had been at full stretch for far too long. Draco was not masochistic enough not to admit he had been at a pretty long stretch too, but Harry always pushed himself too hard. While Harry had slept, Draco had curled up with a good book. It had been very refreshing.

On the day of the party, no matter Molly's protests, everyone in the house had insisted on helping to get it ready. While Molly baked and cooked, the rest of them moved things around and decorated to strict parameters. Once upon a time Draco would have run screaming at the idea of being surrounded by so many Weasleys, but now it was just fun. He'd only had to hex one of the twins once.

George had only just missed Harry when flinging a spell at Fred and Draco did not take well to mistakes like that. A luminous green goatee really had clashed with George's hair, and Draco had added a little twist so the only one who could remove the extra facial hair was him, or possibly Harry. Molly's only comment had been: "You look very distinguished, dear." So Draco had taken that as approval of his actions.

Of course he had expected some form of attempt at retaliation, what he'd got was an offer of money for the secret to the spell. He really never would understand Weasleys.

Now it was party time and everyone was turned out in their best and drinking various concoctions in the Weasleys' living room. Draco was politely sipping a glass of champagne while Harry had a small glass of the same stuff in one hand and a butterbeer in the other. They were all waiting for Molly to appear from around the corner in the kitchen. Everyone had been banished from her domain for the last hour.

"Drum roll please," Fred, who was on lookout and still sporting his green goatee, said loudly.

Of course George took him literally and the sound of a drum roll filled the air. Draco was sure the pair just did magic all the time because they liked it. If they had had a mind to be dark lords they would have been very scary people indeed. When Draco caught that thought he realised that probably went for most of the people he was with at the moment. It was a good thing they were all on the side of the Light.

Molly appeared round the corner carrying the biggest cake Draco had ever seen outside one of his parents' parties when he was younger. Harry's birthday cake from the house elves had been big, but this was ginormous. There had to be magic involved in moving it, either that or Molly was a great deal stronger than Draco gave her credit for.

"Wow, Mum, that's amazing," Ron said, the awe clear in his voice.

"Here, here," Draco added his agreement.

The cake had three tiers. The bottom was a good half a metre across and a foot tall, and was covered in chocolate icing. The middle tier was a little smaller and covered in pink icing. The top tier was smaller still and covered in white icing, with "Congratulations Ron" written around the edge in gold writing that occasionally gave off sparks. There were edible flowers decorating every tier.

They had all seen some of the elements in their raw state in the kitchen over the day, but how Molly had hidden that she was making such a cake was beyond Draco. He couldn't help wondering if Molly had a timeturner in her kitchen, because putting something so grand together in only an hour should have been impossible.

"You deserve it, Love," Molly said, appearing from behind her creation, "you've made us all very proud."

"I'll say," Charlie agreed.

"Never knew you had it in you, Little Brother," Fred and George added their own take on the matter.

"Thanks for raising the bar so high," came from Ginny.

"Here's to Ron," Arthur said and lifted his glass, "our youngest son, ready to face the world."

Ron did blush well as everyone raised the toast. Molly looked like she might cry. All in all Draco thought it was probably a perfectly Weasley moment. There was darkness on the horizon, but at that moment, Draco only felt warmth.

[Wonderful isn't it,] Harry said and Draco could only smile at his soulmate.

He was clearly going soft in the head.

Chapter Text

They had had a relaxing week at the Weasleys, but it wasn't doing them much good now. Draco was tense and Harry was nervous; not exactly a recipe for a great day out, but Harry had chosen to be stubborn on this point. They were staff at Hogwarts and that meant they had to be able to do everything an average wizard could and more. Going to Diagon Alley to pick up supplies for the coming year should not have been a huge deal, and yet as they stepped out into the main street, Harry felt as if he was walking into the lion's den.

There were so many people; all the Hogwarts pupils were there with their families buying their books and their robes and everything else they needed and the place was crowded. It was like a sea of people and Harry hadn't been this nervous since he had first come here when he was eleven.

Like an elite army unit, Hermione and Ron positioned themselves in front of Harry and Draco, and Neville, who they'd met up with in the Leaky Cauldron, moved to stand the opposite side of Harry to Draco. It almost seemed natural they did it so automatically, and briefly Harry wondered to himself how long it would be before his friends did not have to take special care of him. Crowds at Hogwarts had been well trained to part like the red sea, but not so much in Diagon Alley.

[They'll always take care of you,] Draco's voice sounded in his mind and he realised he had broadcast the last thought, [that's what friends are for.]

Harry gave Draco a look; that was a totally unSlytherin thing to say. Draco gave him an enigmatic smile for his trouble.

[A moment of weakness,] was the unrepentant reply.

Harry smiled and it almost chased his nervousness away, but not quite. As they stepped into the road properly, he tightened his grip on Draco's hand. They were going to Flourish and Blots first since even assistant Professors needed the year's course books. They made it halfway there before someone noticed who was walking down the alley.

"Oh my, Harry Potter," he heard from somewhere to the right, and tried very hard to ignore it.

[And Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley and Neville Longbottom,] he commented snidely to Draco, as a similar phase came from another direction.

[Relax, love,] Draco replied calmly, [we knew this was likely to happen. Just keep going as if everything is normal.]

Now they had been noticed, the crowds parted for them like they had been magically moved. It made the way forward easier, but Harry began to feel even more uncomfortable. Children were looking at him with big round eyes and the parents weren't much better.

When they finally reached the shop, he had never been happier to enter a building in his life. Once inside, he and Draco managed to dive into the stacks at the side before any of the other customers realised who had just come in.

"Do you need us?" Hermione asked as they grouped away from the main crowd paying for their purchases.

"I can handle it from here, thank you," Draco said with a smile that belied his true reaction to the situation. "Shall we meet back here before we brave the counter, say thirty minutes?"

There were nods from everyone and then the five friends parted to the various places they needed to be to find what they were looking for.

[Come on Head of Extra Curricular Defence Against the Dark Arts Training,] Draco said with far more lightness in his mental tone than either of them was feeling, [DADA first and then you can be bored silly watching me drool over potions texts.]

[I'll just watch your arse instead,] Harry replied, [I'm sure I can amuse myself.]

Draco raised his eyebrow at the attempt at levity, but led him off to the DADA section anyway. Harry had had a long chat with Professor Daemon about ideas for the DA to link in with the curriculum for the fifth, sixth and seventh years. The DA was to be open to all students of fifteen and over, and he didn't want to be teaching them things they could not cope with. This wasn't like the summer classes, or even the DA from before.

Professor Daemon had been very helpful with suggestions of how to plan the meetings. Harry was looking forward to the whole thing. As soon as they reached the correct section he started scanning for the books on his list and totally forgot about his earlier nerves.

[The potions section is only just over there,] Harry said as he opened yet another book and felt his soulmate's eyes on him, [I'll be alright if you want to go and look.]

He scanned down the index looking for particular things and only looked up when he sensed the indecision and consternation coming from Draco. His lover's face was a picture of uncertainty and it did not take someone sitting in Draco's head to realise that Draco's protective urges were battling with his more self interested ones. Neither was winning.

"Honestly, I'll be fine," Harry said as earnestly as he knew how. He didn't want Draco to be bored out of his skull, "if I'm caught in a crowd I'll holler."

It was quite obvious that Draco wanted to take him up on the offer, but it wasn't that easy. There was still conflict coming at him across their link. Stepping forward, he rested one hand on Draco's arm and then leant in to kiss him lightly on the lips.

[I appreciate the worry,] he said, [and I know my limits. If too many people appear I'll come and hide behind you, I promise.]

[You're sure?] Draco asked.

Harry nodded.

[Go play with the potions books,] he replied, [this is taking longer than I expected anyway and if we want to be ready with the others we need to be in two different places.]

"Fine," Draco agreed, albeit reluctantly, "but so much as a tremor in your shields and I'll be back here like a shot."

"I know," Harry said with a fond smile, "that's why I don't mind you going."

That finally drew a smile from Draco. New places made them both edgy and it was good to see Draco loosen up, if only slightly. Giving Harry a quick peck on the cheek, Draco turned and walked away; Harry went back to his book.

He was so absorbed in what he was reading that he barely noticed the people who passed him in the aisle. It wasn't until there was an indignant screech from just behind him and the sensation of a distinct build up of magic, that he took any interest in his surroundings.

There was a very short, blond girl standing about two feet from him with her wand trained on the disappearing form of a taller, blond boy. From the completely unordered feel of the magic coming from the girl and the wand, Harry was instantly sure that whatever spell the child was trying to cast was about to go nastily wrong.

As the girl flicked her wand Harry decided that maybe she wasn't even trying to cast a spell, she was simply throwing magic in anger. He reached out without thinking. As the flash of uncontrolled power flew from the tip of the girl's wand, he caught it in the palm of his hands and dissipated it harmlessly into the surroundings.

[Harry?] Draco's worried mental voice jumped into his head immediately.

[I'm fine,] Harry said quickly, [just an incident with some undirected magic and, I'm guessing, one of our prospective first years. I think perhaps it's time to play professor before term starts.]

[Want me to come play too?] Draco asked, appeased, but not yet calm.

[Not unless you really want to,] Harry replied, [and two of us might scare her.]

[I'm watching,] was Draco's considered response.

"What did you do that for?" the girl demanded hotly.

Possibly she was not the type to scare easily; at least that's what Harry decided as she glared at him.

"I didn't think you would want your parents to have to pay for the damage," he told her reasonably, "that magic would have caused quite an explosion."

The girl glared at him a little more and then her expression softened, before suddenly scrunching up again as she burst into tears.

"Pip was right," she sobbed as her wand fell to her side.

The child appeared about ready to start wailing. Harry really did not want that so he did the only thing he could think of, he placed his hand gently on her shoulder and fished in his pocket for a hankie. Her distress became very obvious on a physical and mental level, but he blocked it out rather than removing his hand.

"Hey," he said in his best impression of Professor McGonagall in comforting-distressed-first-year mode, "it can't be that bad."

"Pip said I'd be put in Slytherin," the girl sobbed at him, "and he's right, look what I almost did."

He handed her the scrunched up, but never the less clean handkerchief, which she took hesitantly.

"And what's so bad about Slytherin?" Harry asked gently, pretty sure that the girl in front of him was most definitely either a Slytherin or a Gryffindor, and very glad that she seemed to have no idea who he was.

That question gained him a dubious look from his small companion.

"Slytherin is where all the bad wizards go," she said in little more than a whisper, "Pip told me."

Harry gave her a little smile.

"I'll let you into a secret," he said in an equally low whisper, "they aren't all bad. They're ambitious and they like to win, but that's not always a bad thing."

From the way the girl's eyes opened, Harry suspected she had just realised that is was possible she was talking to someone from Hogwarts.

"Are you a Slytherin?" she asked as if she thought she might be hexed at any moment.

That made Harry chuckle.

"No," he said lightly, "but I almost was, I'm a Gryffindor."

That brokered confusion in his companion.

"Pip's a Hufflepuff and he says that Gryffindors and Slytherins are enemies," she said.

It seemed that she put a lot of stock in what Pip said.

"Is Pip your brother?" Harry asked, just to make sure he was not assuming incorrectly.

The girl nodded.

"Well he's sort of right," Harry went on, "and that's how I used to think too, but that's not how it should be. Not all Gryffindors are reckless and not all Slytherins are evil, but that's how lots of people expect them to be. The Gryffindors had a Slytherin living with them all of last year, did Pip tell you that? Before that everyone thought he was the worst of them all."

This caused the youngster to pause and think.

"Yes, but he bonded with Harry Potter," she said almost reverently, "and that must have changed him."

"Want to know another secret?" Harry responded conspiratorially and the girl nodded. "He was kind of nasty before last year, but he was confused. It was him coming over to the good side that allowed him to bond and not the bond that made him good."

"Harry," a cool voice said from beside him, and he jumped, having been paying attention to nothing but the girl, "I was not confused, I was misguided. Are you ready yet; we're nearly out of time?"

He stood back up to his full height, having bent down towards the girl earlier, and gave his soulmate a smile. When he looked back at his small companion her eyes were about ready to pop out. It seemed she had realised who she was talking to.

"Draco, this is," he paused and smiled at her politely.

"Katherine," she said breathlessly.

"Katherine, this is Draco," he finished, deliberately ignoring her discomfort, "it was very nice talking to you. We have to go now, but we'll see you at Hogwarts, whichever house you're sorted into. For now I wouldn't wave that wand around too much if I were you; you pack quite a wallop."

It was quite obvious that Katherine was not about to recover her composure any time soon, so with a little wave Harry walked away; it wasn't until they were at the end of the aisle that Draco commented.

[I think you may have gained yourself another minion,] Draco said with a small smile.

[Draco,] Harry replied in kind, [Gryffindors do not have minions; that's a Slytherin prerogative. We have followers.]

Chapter Text

Dinner after the en masse trip to Diagon Alley had been a civilised affair around the Weasleys' dining table, and Draco had produced some very nice wine that he had picked up while shopping. It was the last evening before everyone was back off to Hogwarts, so it was something of a send-off. It was after dinner that the firewhiskey and wizards ale had come out, and even Molly was looking a little on the merry side by ten o'clock.

The only one who was sober was Harry, and that was because he had had one glass of wine and then refused anything else. Draco was in no way falling down drunk, but it was difficult to miss the buzz coming from him paired with the slightly less than perfect poise he normally had.

At about five past ten, Harry nipped up the stairs to use the loo in the upstairs bathroom. A few minutes after that he opened the door and found Draco leaning on the wall outside with a predatory smile on his face.

"They're busy downstairs doing family things," Draco said while pushing himself away from the paintwork in a surprisingly graceful manner, "I thought we could use this to our advantage."

Staying with the Weasleys was fun and restful in a frenetic family kind of way, but there was very little chance for personal time. Silencing charms did not seem to work well in Percy's room, and after a quick word with Ron, Harry had found out this was something to do with an experiment of the Twins' and eavesdropping on their brother.

This meant that, for their entire stay, if either of them breathed loudly someone had been likely to hear. Since Harry did not feel like broadcasting his love life to his surrogate family, he and Draco had not had sex since they set foot in the house. That was a record for them, barring time spent unconscious.

Given how his libido was these days, Harry did not argue as Draco pushed him back into the bathroom and closed the door behind them. It seemed that alcohol made Draco horny, if the waves of unadulterated lust coming off the Slytherin were anything to go by. Harry found himself grinning like a loon at the prospect of hot and heavy sex with his slightly inebriated lover.

Now the Weasleys' bathroom was not overly large, so when Harry stepped back as Draco kissed him, his knees hit the bath tub.

"Oh bugger," he said as he began to lose his balance.

Luckily for him, Draco might have been a little merry, but he also had the reflexes of a cat. The feel of Draco magic surrounded him as Draco went for his wand and, by the time Harry landed, the bath had a very soft cushioning charm, which deflated like a balloon and lowered him into the tub. He was, however, in a rather compromising position.

"Oh," Draco said, grinning a very wicked grin, "now I've got you."

Given that his legs were hanging over the side of the bath and he couldn't move, Harry had to agree.

"I've been so very good haven't I, Harry?" Draco said, licking his lips. "I only hexed one of them, and that was totally justified. Don't you think I deserve a treat?"

"Definitely," he agreed. "Why don't you come here so I can give it to you?"

Draco threw a locking charm absently over his shoulder before putting his wand down on the sink, all under Harry's watchful gaze. Harry wasn't quite sure what was coming, but he didn't really mind what it was. When Draco released the fastenings on his trousers and climbed into the tub over Harry, Harry got the idea.

"Oh," he said with a grin, "mine to play with?"

"If you play nice," Draco replied.

"Always," Harry replied, "unless you ask nicely."

Lifting his arms, he put his hands on Draco's waist and helped him lower himself down until he was resting against Harry's legs. The fact that Draco was already hard was more than obvious from quite so close. It wasn't the most comfortable position in the world, but, with the cushioning charm and what was on offer, Harry didn't overly care.

Harry was nothing if not resourceful and he pulled Draco's trousers down a little as his lover wiggled to help. The view was tantalising. With a little more manoeuvring he quickly had Draco's erection free from the confines of annoying cloth. However, there really was no room for his arms to be any more useful than that.

There really was only one thing for it. Leaning his head forward, he sucked the head of Draco's cock into his mouth and employed his tongue.

"Merlin's balls," Draco said, voice strangled in the way of someone trying not to be too loud.

[I'm far more interested in yours,] Harry replied and sent his soulmate a mental image of what he would have been doing with them had they been within reach.

Draco moaned in a most gratifying manner and pleasure sparked between them. It lit up Harry's nerves like little prickles of lightning as Draco failed to hold anything back. He hummed his enjoyment, which only increased the experience for both of them.

In the back of his mind he realised they probably didn't have a whole lot of time. There was a house full of people and someone was bound to want to use the bathroom sooner or later, so he set about giving Draco his reward with supreme focus.

By now he knew exactly what Draco liked. He was lacking finesse given the position he was in, but, with his hands supporting his soulmate, he did his best to drive Draco to distraction. He sucked, he licked, he bobbed his head and Draco responded to every move.

At times Harry had to concentrate hard to keep his mind on what he was doing, because Draco was reflecting everything back at him without reservation. Draco's fingers wound into his hair, pulling just enough to be exciting.

"Harry," Draco moaned quietly.

Draco was so close, it was more than obvious because Harry was teetering on the edge as well. As soon as Draco went, Harry knew he would as well. This was more about mutual gratification than anything else now. Using Quidditch trained muscles, Harry lifted himself up just a little and gave himself enough leverage to take in as much of Draco's cock as he could get to and sucked hard.

"Nghhrrr."

One of Draco's hands disappeared from his hair and he had the distinct impression of teeth digging into flesh before Draco's orgasm hit him like a tsunami. He swallowed, pulled back and gasped his way through his own shuddering completion as most motor power failed him.

There were many wonderful things to be said for a mutual orgasm, but it being good for higher brain function was not one of them. The way the pleasure bounced back and forth between them made him shake to his very core. It was, quite frankly, amazing.

[Harry, talk to me,] Draco seemed to have regained his wits first.

[Give me a sec,] he replied, but did open one eye to peer up at his soulmate.

Draco gave him a very pleased smile. It was then Harry realised Draco's clothes looked a lot more mussed than he remembered. He didn't really recall his hands doing a great deal, but apparently they had been busy while his brain was otherwise occupied. The only way to describe Draco was debauched. Not that his soulmate seemed to mind.

[Do I look as bad as you?] he asked and grinned.

[Yep.]

Harry would have laughed, but just about then Draco's cushioning charm failed and he discovered there was a plug loose in the bath and it was sticking in rather delicate places. Extracting himself from the tub, although he was rather enjoying how close he and Draco were, was becoming something of a priority for Harry. When he heard a noise outside on the landing it became even more urgent. As the handle on the door moved, he shook Draco's shoulder and pointed.

"Harry, is that you in there?" Arthur's voice sounded through the door. "Molly noticed you were gone; is everything all right?"

"Yeah, fine," Harry called back as Draco climbed off him and then helped him out of the bath, "won't be a minute."

From the slightly panicked feelings coming from his soulmate, Harry decided that Draco was probably completely sober by now. It was the Slytherin who found his wand first as well and cast a couple of mild cleaning charms while Harry sorted out their clothes. As it turned out, scrabbling to rearrange semi-formal attire without making too much obvious noise was quite difficult and there was at least one grunt from Draco as they bumped into each other.

"Are you sure?" Arthur asked, and Harry was not clear if it was concern or amusement he could hear in Ron's dad's voice. "Nothing disagreed with you did it?"

"No, everything's fine," Harry replied while praying that he did not look quite as debauched as Draco did, even with clothes back in place.

[Give it up, love,] Draco said silently, as Harry tried to straighten his shirt for the fifth time, [we have been caught red handed.]

An amused grin was forcing its way onto Draco's face and eventually Harry slumped against the wash basin in defeat. This was going to be so embarrassing, but he had to smile. With a resigned grin he reached for the lock and opened the door to find Arthur standing there looking totally innocent.

"Sorry for taking up the bathroom, Mr Weasley," Harry said, trying not to go too red.

"That's alright, Harry, Draco," Ron's dad replied, the mirth clear in his eyes.

They inched past the man and were almost to the stairs before Arthur finished his comment: "I was young once too."

* * *

Draco watched the effect seeing Harry Potter on the platform was having on the parents and children arriving for the train to Hogwarts. It was quite amazing how Harry changed things without even realising it. All the new assistant staff, in their new black robes, had taken up positions at the far end of the platform, next to the train, and sooner or later, usually sooner as far as Draco could tell, all eyes ended up on Harry.

In most cases some of the worry fell off the faces of the adults and many seemed to stand a little straighter as well. Even some of the Slytherin parents appeared relieved when they saw the retinue of ex-students there to guard their children. Draco knew for a fact some were Death Eaters, but he was beginning to suspect not all of the Dark Lord's followers were as faithful to their master as they once had been. The ripples of Lucius' failure to destroy Harry Potter were yet to settle.

Since he was in Harry's head, Draco knew his soulmate was far from oblivious, but Harry was doing a very good job of pretending not to notice the attention. Harry was keeping an eye on everyone as they arrived, checking for dark magic with his Hecatemus abilities, and it helped to keep him occupied.

Draco was not fond of the stares, but he was nowhere near as uncomfortable as Harry usually was. All it took was one look from him and most eyes moved off of his person, but Harry had yet to master that particular expression, no matter how Draco tried to teach him. Harry's last comment about it had been: "If I manage a stare like that The Prophet will be printing that I'm the next Dark Lord before the day's out. You're scary enough for both of us, Love."

At that point Draco had given up. He knew which battles to fight and when.

"Smile Harry," came from the right and Harry turned just in time for a flash bulb to go off.

"Creevey," Draco said in a very dangerous tone.

Of course it was their resident photographer, now in his final year. At this rate he wasn't going to make it to his first day if Draco had anything to do with it.

"The Prophet will want a picture," Creevey said, as unrepentant as usual; "if I don't provide them they'll do something stupid like sending in their own photographer."

"That's true," Harry said and Draco gave his soulmate a glare.

"Don't encourage him," Draco said, but Harry grinned since Draco had said it out loud.

"I do always get your good side," Creevey added, pushing his luck.

"Be very, very glad you don't see my bad side," Draco replied and gave the younger boy his most unsettling smile.

"God, you're too good at that," Creevey said with a mock shudder; "I almost believe you're still the bastard who hexed me when I was thirteen."

"Oh I am," Draco said, "I just hide it better most of the time."

Unfortunately that just made Creevey laugh.

"Please let me hex him," Draco begged Harry in a whining tone.

"Maybe later," his soulmate said.

* * *

They all maintained their positions on the platform until nearly all the pupils had boarded the train. Only then did they all come together as a group.

"Are we ready for this?" Pansy asked with a resigned tone.

"Sitting with ickle firsties might be fun," Seamus said with a laugh.

"We already told you, you are not allowed to convince any of them there is a spell to turn water into rum," Hermione said and the eye-roll was implied.

"Now there's me fun gone to pot," Seamus complained, but his oft-present smile was still firmly in place.

"You're already embarrassing us with that eye," Michael Corner complained.

At some time over the short time they had all been away from Hogwarts, Seamus had somehow managed to gain a black eye. Since this was Seamus the Gryffindors had barely noticed, but some of the other ex-seventh years didn't like it much.

"I told you, I was defending a damsel from a dragon," Seamus replied without hesitation.

"I thought it was your mother from a ghoul?" Susan Bones said.

"Was it?" Seamus said. "Well I'm such a heroic type sometimes I forget."

Draco laughed, he couldn't help liking Seamus, even against his better judgement. If he hadn't known there was a brain in the other boy's head he never would have guessed.

"Come on," he said, before anyone could challenge for a straight answer, "we need to board. Remember, we're Hogwarts representatives now, and we're here to keep everyone calm."

The whole group nodded then and he knew no one would let the side down.

* * *

The Hogwarts express was a ridiculously long train, but there were plenty of them to go around, so they spread out.

"God I love you in that robe," Draco said as they walked down the train. "Dumbledore knew what he was doing when he ordered them."

Harry looked back from where he had taken the lead. Draco could see the cogs twirling in Harry's mind.

[So that's why you let me on the train first,] he said, [I'm being ogled.]

"I don't really think Dumbledore was taking your kinks into account when he had them designed," is what Harry said out loud.

"Never be too sure with the old man," Draco replied, "never be too sure."

Harry flattened himself against the side of the train to let some excited-looking first years past. Draco put his arm out to make sure the group didn't come into contact with Harry too much. He might have been ogling, but he still took protecting Harry very seriously. Harry sent him the most endearing look of thanks.

"That's it," Draco said, "I can't resist anymore."

Then he was stepping into the space the first years left and moved in to give Harry a very sound kiss. He was pretty sure that given the way Harry's brain was directly wired to his hormones when it came to him these days, his soulmate wouldn't even consider doing anything but kissing back. He was right.

Draco didn't let the kiss last long, nothing indecent, but it was passionate enough that he felt the blood beginning to leave his brain for parts further south. Harry beamed at him when he pulled back.

"What was that for?" Harry asked, even as his eyes flicked to the audience they had gained in the corridor.

"To get me through this wretched train journey," Draco said, but he put no heat behind his words.

"Okay," Harry simply agreed.

Draco couldn't help thinking he might have just given away that his joking around about the robes was less of a joke and more of a fact.

He needed to take charge before Harry got it into his head to tease him. Draco set off again, this time in the lead. They found a carriage that still had two seats available relatively quickly and opened the door. Inside there was three third years, two Ravenclaws and a Hufflepuff, and two lost-looking first years. All eyes turned to them as they leant in.

"Mind if we join you?" Harry asked with a smile.

They had mutually agreed Harry would do the initial talking since he was less intimidating than Draco. It was just an obvious fact that Draco didn't mind in the slightest. He enjoyed watching the effect Harry had on people just by being Harry.

"Of ... of course not," the Hufflepuff managed to stammer out as the rest of the carriage gawped at them.

"Thanks," Harry said and pulled Draco in to sit in two of the three vacant seats. "I'm Harry and this is Draco," as if everyone didn't already know, "well unless we're taking lessons, then it's Professor Potter and Professor Malfoy, which sounds so weird. I'm sorry, I've seen you three around, but I am hopeless with names."

"I'm Mal," the Hufflepuff said, "and this is Jack and Laura."

"Aren't you the Hufflepuff reserve Seeker?" Harry asked as if the three weren't still staring at him as if he had two heads.

Mal nodded.

"Well reserve, reserve," the boy corrected.

"You had some nice moves in that friendly against us last year," Harry told him.

That caused even more of a goldfish impression for a few moments. Clearly the great Harry Potter giving out complements about Quidditch was not something the third year expected.

"Not really hard against your rabble," Draco decided to step in before it got any worse and complete awe broke out.

Of course Harry laughed, just as Draco had expected.

"We still beat your lot," he said.

"I still claim the ref was blind in that last match," Draco played along.

"I'll tell Madam Hooch that next time I see her," Harry said, "and we'll see how comfortable you are in the staff room after that."

"I have evidence!"

Their audience was beginning to look perplexed.

"Aren't you two supposed to agree about everything?"

It was one of the first years who finally found the courage to speak. At which point Harry almost fell off his chair laughing. Draco rolled his eyes and gave a very dramatic sigh.

"What my oh so embarrassing soulmate it trying to say," Draco said as Harry continued to laugh, he was almost crying, "is that we wouldn't be much good to each other if we just blindly agreed with whatever the other said. I believe what you're thinking of is that we always support each other, even if we don't agree."

The first year made a little 'o' with her mouth and then nodded. At least she was looking less star struck now. It was probably going to take a while, but Draco was sure they could get everyone talking by at least Yorkshire.

Chapter Text

It had never occurred to Harry that he and he fellow assistance professors would not be sitting at their house tables like usual. However, they weren't students anymore and when he and Draco arrived for the sorting feast the first thing he saw was a new table at the end, in front of the dais where the rest of the staff sat. It was to the right and had benches either side, rather than being completely across the room as the head table was, and several of their fellows were already sitting at it.

Draco set off down the hall with an impressive swish of robes and Harry hurried to keep up with him. He suspected Draco was making the perfect impression with the returning pupils, but he doubted he was doing as well. Not that he had delusions of greatness or anything.

[I do not have delusions,] Draco said and Harry realised he must have projected the last part.

[Of course not,] Harry replied, [but if I had any such expectations they would be.]

Draco turned and gave him a small smile for that comeback.

"So," Draco said as he slid onto one of the benches, saving the end spot of Harry, "anyone blown anything up yet? I know there's only one Weasley in the main school population now, but I am sure someone will rise to the challenge of filling the vacuum."

Ron opened his mouth to retort, then thought about it and shrugged.

"No one yet," was what Harry's best friend said.

There really was no arguing with the Weasley reputation at Hogwarts.

"I already heard two third years talking about the epic snog they saw Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy having in the train corridor," Seamus put in.

"Then I pity whomever they choose as future life partners," Draco said in a very superior tone, "because there was nothing epic about it; nice, yes, even boarding on very good, but definitely not epic."

"No, we save those for when no one can see us," Harry said and grinned.

"That's more than enough information for dinner time, thank you, Harry," Hermione said before he could say anything else.

She narrowed her eyes at Seamus as if daring him to start a war of innuendo. Luckily he wasn't that stupid.

"You were supposed to be setting an example," Hermione said, giving Harry a look.

"We were," Draco said, "just not the one everyone was expecting. Besides, it put everyone at ease, if we were relaxed enough for a quick snog then there was no danger of attack."

Harry hadn't actually been thinking like that at the time, but Draco had a point. Given the way Hermione lifted her eyebrows, looked at the floor and finally nodded, he thought she might agree.

"Okay, I'll give you that," she said, "but don't think I believe that was your only motive."

Draco grinned at her then.

"Of course not," Draco said, entirely unrepentant.

"What do you think the sorting hat will sing about this year?" Harry asked.

"I'm guessing united houses," Pansy said from a little further down the table, "because we've been put at the front like prize turkeys for all to see and no one is going to miss we're a mixed bunch."

Draco nodded and Harry found it hard to disagree. They had been on show since the moment they stood on the train station. For once he actually didn't mind, and the fact he was part of a group rather than all by himself helped that feeling enormously.

"And we're cheering for all houses during the sorting, right?" Harry said, looking around at his fellows one by one.

"Of course," Neville agreed even as Seamus, Ron and Goyle, plus a couple of others looked somewhat rebellious.

"Appearances must be maintained," Pansy said with a nod, which stopped any objection coming from Goyle.

"And we're staff now," Hermione added, sending a very significant stare at Ron, "we should show enthusiasm to all the first years. What kind of example would it set if we showed house favouritism?"

"You mean like all the other members of staff?" Seamus countered.

"And we're going to be better than them," Hermione said very firmly.

Harry had to smile; when Hermione and Pansy agreed on something is was almost scary.

"Good," he said before anyone else could say anything, "glad that's settled then."

Several mutinous glares were aimed in his direction, but he was pretty sure the message had been received.

* * *

The Sorting Hat lived in Dumbledore's office, Harry had seen it more than once since his life changing discovery, however, when it was brought out and placed on the stool he couldn't resist looking at it properly. Thanks to all the returning students already in the hall, the place was abuzz with magic and emotion, so he was very careful.

He couldn't help just staring at what he saw. When safely in the headmaster's office the hat had a magical feel to it, but Harry quickly realised that had to be just a dormant state. Now the hat was alive with metallic hues and it positively gave off sparks. Harry was reminded of Dumbledore.

[Look at the hat,] Harry said and gave Draco a taste of what he was seeing.

[That's a lot of magic,] Draco said, the feeling of awe following the statement. [All just to sort students.]

[It's probably been gathering it for its whole existence,] Harry said, fascinated by the mix of power. [I don't think I want to know what would happen if someone tried to take the Sorting Hat away from Hogwarts.]

[Agreed,] Draco said, [let's not try that.]

A complete hush fell over the hall as everyone awaited the hat's song.

Once, long ago, when I was young
and danger came a calling,
A Founder knew what should be done
So built a refuge dwelling

Hogwarts is still that refuge place
Within its walls collect
So once again a Founder's grace
Is needed to protect

Four noble Houses we shall be
Yet one we stand united
Let not the past in darkness see
For lies too much are cited

Hufflepuff your loyalty find
For you our heart shall be
Treat others as you see in kind
Til goodness shine from thee

Ravenclaw your minds will lead,
Let not your will be stolen.
For darkness on ign'rance will feed,
And blindness let the troll in.

Gryffindor your courage must
From the front inspire all
The darkness is upon us thrust
Stand firm and heed the call

Slytherin your cunning wins
The battle coming soon
Hold to the light dear cousins
For darkness brings just doom

Hogwarts, her hallowed walls have stood
For a thousand years and more
All Founders four, their aim was good
Lose not their goal in war.

[Well that was rather blunt,] Draco said as Professor McGonagall approached the stool with her list.

[I think it thinks we're all idiots,] Harry replied and just kept watching.

"Armarda, Elizabeth," Professor McGonagall called out.

A very nervous little girl with the most adorable pigtails Harry had ever seen, walked tentatively towards the stool. McGonagall nodded at her and she picked up the hat, sat down and put it on her head. Tendrils of magic flowed from the hat tinged with the four house colours. Most hovered around the girl's head, but some snaked down to her heart and over her stomach.

It was the most amazing thing to watch and Harry wished he could share it with more than Draco.

"RAVENCLAW," the Hat announced loudly.

As ever there was a huge round of applause from the house in question and Professor Flitwick, who seemed most excited. There was a smattering from the rest of the school and teachers and Harry nodded at Draco and they instigated a hearty celebration from the whole of their table as well.

When Harry glanced at the high table, Dumbledore gave him a wink and a twinkling smile.

The sorting continued and, clearly, what no one expected was for the new table to be equally enthusiastic when Slytherins were chosen. However, Harry refused to let house bias mar the celebrations for all the new first years. They had just finished a riotous round of applause for a tall boy with a very distinct nose who had joined the ranks of the most reviled house in Hogwarts when Harry saw a familiar face.

[Lancer, Katherine.]

The tiny girl (Harry had no doubt Hogwarts food would have her sprouting up in no time) started her walk to the stool. She looked hideously afraid, eyes darting everywhere and fingers in a knot. When her gaze found Harry he smiled at her and nodded.

For a moment she hesitated. Professor McGonagall gave her a look and Harry nodded again. Katherine stood up taller, straightened her shoulders and walked proudly to the stool.

[Merlin, but you have an effect on them,] Draco commented. [New minion number one.]

[Follower,] Harry said.

[Minion.]

"RAVENCLAW!"

Harry wasn't sure who was more surprised, Katherine or the boy who was definitely her brother Pip sitting at the Gryffindor table. The girl recovered quickly, hopping off the stool and trotting to her new house as everyone clapped. She sent a beaming smiled at Harry as she sat down.

[Looks like she was hiding her true talents in Flourish and Blott's,] Draco commented, clapping along with the rest of the table.

[I thought she'd be one of ours for sure,] Harry agreed. [Shows you can never tell.]

[That or the hat is going as batty as Albus,] Draco joked.

Harry laughed as they settled in for the next first year to be sorted. Warnings of dire things aside, it was turning out to be a fun feast.

"Welcome new first years," Dumbledore said once every child was sitting at a house table, "it is so nice to see so many happy faces. Without further ado, let the feast begin."

Of course the food was amazing when it actually arrived and Harry ate until he was bursting. Only as everyone was going into a food induced coma did Dumbledore finally rise to his feet once again. Silence descended across the Great Hall.

"I do hope we are all feeling full and content," the headmaster said. "As ever there are a few notices to give out before you all go to your houses for the night. As all of you will have noticed there is a new table at the front of the hall. It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you our new Assistant Professors. Second years and above no doubt recognise our new teachers and many of you from first to third year will find your classes being taught by our new staff. No doubt much fun will be had by all."

[Or not,] Draco commented dryly.

"The third floor corridor on the right hand side, which has been closed for some years, has been refurbished to house staff bedrooms and recreational area," Dumbledore continued. "This wing is off limits to pupils unless accompanied by a member of staff."

Harry still wasn't sure he liked the idea of sleeping where he had once faced Fluffy, but he supposed there was little alternative. Hogwarts had a long tradition of the house common rooms and dormitories being student only places most of the time. None of them could stay where they had been.

"The forest is also out of bounds to all students," Dumbledore went on.

[Unless you get detention and someone is feeling vindictive,] Harry said.

He was never going to forget that fright from his first year and Draco's raised eyebrow said everything about the way his soulmate felt about the incident.

[Never mention that again,] Draco said to back up the look.

It had not been an auspicious moment for either of them. Harry reached out and took Draco's hand in apology as Dumbledore continued to talk. It was all routine and they had all heard it seven times before. There was darkness on the horizon, but Hogwarts could always be relied on to be a place of safety for the children within its walls.

* * *

The house elves had taken all their bags when they arrived and they'd all gone straight to the feast, so it wasn't until afterwards that the Assistant Professors were allowed to see their new quarters. The first thing Draco noticed when they climbed the staircase to their new home was that everything looked bigger.

Given how Hogwarts worked, he didn't bother to wonder how.

There were doors all along the corridor now, each with a name on it in gold.

"Oh, this is mine," Hermione said as they passed the first door.

"Looks grand," Ron commented as she went to open it.

"Welcome, Miss Granger," said the gargoyle above the door that Draco hadn't even noticed. "I am currently instructed to only allow entrance to you and anyone accompanying you, however, should you wish to add exceptions to this rule all you have to do it tell me."

"Thank you," Hermione said as the stone devil returned to lifelessness.

"I will never get used to bits of masonry suddenly being sentient," Harry complained.

Draco laughed, as did Pansy.

"I cannot help growing up a Muggle," Harry said with the most adorable pout.

"Come on, Potter," Draco said, still laughing, "let's see where the headmaster put us. See the rest of you in the morning."

Everyone acknowledged that and made their own goodbyes as they split up to their own doors.

"This is us," Draco said as they reached the door right in the middle where the gold letters proclaimed their names. "Looks like Albus put us as far away from wild student magic as possible."

Given that at one end was the Charms corridor and the other was the main staircase, Draco appreciated the gesture.

"Shall we?" Harry asked, reaching out for the door handle.

"Good evening, Mr Potter, Mr Malfoy," their gargoyle said. "I am currently..."

"Yes thank you," Draco said before the animated stone could go on, "we will let you know if you are to allow anyone else access."

"Very good," the gargoyle said and returned to its inanimate state.

Harry opened the door and smiled. Draco stepped up beside his soulmate as he felt the pleasure radiating off him. There was a four poster bed to one side, with brocade curtains covered in blood red roses with green leaves and stems. On the other side of the room was their desk and bookcase, with plenty of storage space towards the back. There was also a window where Draco wasn't quite sure there should have been able to be one. He was pretty confident it should have been an inside wall.

Then again: Hogwarts.

"Oh yes," Harry said as they stepped inside and Draco felt the way his soulmate relaxed.

The room was clearly warded in the same way their last one had been. It was always amazing to feel the effect such assistance had on Harry. Draco likened it to slipping into a nice hot bath after a hard day of working.

"Wonder where the bathroom is," Harry said as if picking up on that thought.

"Two doors down in either direction," Draco said, "and if you missed that you really do need a good night's sleep."

"Probably," Harry agreed, sitting on the bed and bouncing a little to test it; "it's been a long day. We're home again, though," Harry added and smiled.

Draco couldn't disagree. The Manor was still his family home, but where Harry was, was his true home and Harry belonged in Hogwarts.

Their home was under threat for Voldemort and his forces and they would be there to defend it. This was where they were meant to be.

* * *

Harry sat on the bed with his legs crossed and his eyes closed. Their new room felt good and safe, but he wasn't used to it yet and he wasn't quite tired enough after the long day to just let it go.

He's already used the "Assistant Professors Men's Bathroom" as it had proudly announced on the door. It was every bit as nice as the Prefects' bathroom and was actually down some stairs on the floor below. Only Harry was sure there was something else on the floor below, so maybe it was actually a floor in between or actually somewhere else entirely. Walking down the stairs had felt a little weird if he was honest.

Taking a deep breath, Harry slowly and carefully began to lower his mental barriers. The first thing that lit up in his head was Draco, only a few feet away and quietly reading a book, so as not to disturb him. As ever his soulmate was his rock and ready to help if he did anything stupid.

The patterns of magic in the room became clear to his inner eye. They were beautiful and he felt around them, letting himself absorb the feeling of them bit by bit. The wards were identical in make up to the ones on their room in Gryffindor tower, but, of course, no two sets of wards could be completely the same. Two identical spells cast in two different places were never exactly identical in execution.

Harry carefully learned his way around, feeling the security of the similarities and acknowledging the small differences. It was almost a meditative exercise.

Once he was sure of their room he sent his magical sense out further. He laughed.

"Pansy already has up privacy wards," he said, "she's as paranoid as you."

"Careful," Draco said, "I believe careful is the word you are looking for."

"Of course," Harry agreed with another laugh, "careful was definitely what I was after."

He wasn't trying to spy on his fellow Assistant Professors, he just needed to know the feel of his new home. The incident with Fitzsimons seemed to have kicked his instincts into a higher gear and which of his friends was where seemed obvious to him, even though he wasn't trying.

He didn't linger. Everything magical was noted and catalogued in his peculiar brain, from the gargoyles to the spells on the bathroom doors that definitely weren't just locking charms. This was his new home for the foreseeable future and he let it sink into his bones. It made him feel happy.

"You know," Draco said as Harry began to reign in his extra senses, "your expression is far too much like Albus' for comfort when you do that."

Harry opened his eyes and grinned.

Chapter Text

They looked so small; that was Harry's overriding impression of the group of first years waiting for him near the broom sheds. At the sorting feast they had appeared young and over-awed, but up close all he could think was how small they were. It made him feel suddenly old.

[They look like they might break at any second,] he commented to Draco as he bolstered his courage and walked towards his first class.

[Wait until they start flying into walls and blowing things up,] his soulmate replied dryly, [then they won't seem so delicate.]

[How much trouble can they possibly be in their first lesson?] Harry replied with a laugh.

He had been feeling nervous all morning as had Draco, but his lover had been hiding it well behind snide comments and indignant silences. Now was a moment for a silence, but Harry found a mental image of 'the look' being projected into his mind. Draco had perfected 'the look' to say everything from 'Harry' in a disbelieving tone, to 'you idiotic Gryffindor prat' in a very cutting manner; this time he suspected his soulmate was aiming for somewhere in the middle.

[You have Gryffindors and Slytherins,] Draco said eventually, [because as usual Albus decided to have a senior moment when drawing up the timetable. Remember our first flying lesson.]

It was difficult to forget the whole swooping after the Remeberall, being dragged off by Professor McGonagall while thinking he was being expelled and then ending up on the Quidditch team. Possibly Draco had a point.

[Well you have Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs,] Harry tried to look on the bright side, [so it's unlikely they'll blow anything up in their first lesson.]

That earned him another mental image of the look.

[Over eager brain boxes and bumbling idiots,] Draco responded much more quickly this time, [I'll be lucky to survive half an hour.]

[You're doing a very good impression of Snape,] Harry said with a laugh.

[Thank you,] his soulmate replied, which made him laugh again.

He suddenly realised that he was almost at the broom sheds and their professor laughing at apparently nothing might be a bit unsettling for the first years, so he reigned in his amusement. Being labelled as a nutty teacher on his first day was not an idea Harry relished.

[Gotta go,] he said cheerfully, [wish me luck.]

[Hah, I need all the luck I can find on my side, get your own,] Draco replied, but the words were accompanied by a warm mental hug, which Harry quickly returned.

Putting his connection to his soulmate to a background level, he focussed on his class and gave them a cheerful smile.

"Good morning," he greeted warmly, "I do hope you are all ready to fly."

He was met by several smiles in return, a handful of nervous grimaces and a few hostile glares from a small sub-group of Slytherins.

"I suspect most of you know who I am," he continued chattily, "but to clarify, here I am Professor Potter ..."

"Assistant Professor," he distinctly heard muttered from the back.

Quite deliberately he stopped, turned in the direction of the sub-group of Slytherins and gave them Draco glare number five. It was nowhere near as affective as 'the look', but he had only been taking lessons from his soulmate for a year and Draco had had a life time to practice these things.

"As far as you are concerned, that is neither here nor there," he said in a disarmingly pleasant tone, "and next time I hear anything like that from any of you, Slytherin will be in negative house points before you have finished the last syllable."

He turned back to the rest of the class.

"As I was saying," he continued calmly, "here I am Professor Potter, I am not The Boy Who Lived, nor should it concern you what I may or may not be magically. Here I intend to teach you to fly to the best of my ability. Contrary to popular school mythology I do not have god like powers, nor am I insane, or a complete idiot with a Snitch where his brain should be, but I do have eyes in the back of my head."

Looking around there were a few more smiles this time.

He took out the register of pupils from his pocket, returned it to its normal size and opened it at the correct page. There were a couple of students staring at him in awe and he noted which were likely the Muggleborns. He remembered all too well that feeling of seeing things in the magical world for the first time. Come to think of it, it still happened quite regularly.

The Slytherins were still whispering together and he gave them a glare before calling out the first name. There was going to be trouble from that direction, he was sure.

* * *

Draco turned his focus back to his own classroom after his brief conversation with Harry. He wasn't about to tell his soulmate, but Harry was right, the first years did look small. He wondered if he had ever look so silly as the Ravenclaw at the front with her pile of books that were way above her current level.

"Good morning, class," he said, standing up from his position behind the teacher's desk.

All eyes snapped to him immediately. There was the sound of something rolling and then a ting as one of the chopping scalpels hit the floor. The Hufflepuff who had been playing with it eyed it worriedly.

"Leave it, Mr Davidson," Draco said as the boy went to move from his seat.

Davidson snapped onto his stool, back ramrod straight, clearly terrified. Coming to a stop in front of his desk, Draco mentally congratulated himself on learning all his students' faces and names.

"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making," he began, just as Snape had done every year; he knew a good opening when he had heard one. "There will be no silly wand waving here. Every move you make will be meticulous and precise, every action catalogued and in the given order. You will learn the finest form of magic and the most rigorous of discipline. Playing games in my class will result in detentions with Mr Filtch, and trust me when I say you will not like that. Are we clear?"

Every head bobbed as wide eyes stared at him.

"Good," he said, "now I will take the register."

As he turned back to the desk he heard another thud as something else hit the floor. Gritting his teeth he picked up his register and decided to ignore it.

* * *

Once Harry was sure he had all the students he was supposed to have, he led them over to the broom shed. It was the moment of truth.

"Right then, I want you each to take a broom and follow me," he said and opened the door to the shed.

Under his watchful eye they all piled in one by one to pick up the rather ratty-looking broomsticks. There was some shoving to get to the best brooms, but in Harry's opinion they were all a much of a muchness.

Someone really needed to go through and service the whole lot or replace them, but just at the moment they were all they had to work with. Once each pupil had a broom and he had extracted the small Gryffindor boy the Slytherins had seen fit to bury under a pile of spare broom handles (some things would never change), he led them towards the practice flying ground.

"Two lines," he said quickly as they milled around in the open space, "facing each other. Put your brooms on the ground under your wand hand and then wait."

The milling continued as the class jostled for position, and Harry began to think that maybe he'd have to borrow Madame Hooch's whistle. It was amazing how actually taking a class suddenly made him sympathise with the woman far more than he ever had.

"Now," he barked and suddenly there was life in the pupils. "Thank you," he said as everyone finally stilled.

It was not a surprise to find that all the Slytherins were on one side and the Gryffindors on the other, but he chose to ignore this for the moment.

"Now your first job is to connect with your broom," Harry continued, doing his best to appear supremely confident. "Put your hand out over the broom handle and concentrating on it, say 'up' very firmly."

As they moved to obey there was a cacophony of 'up's. Only two pupils' brooms jumped obediently into their hands.

"Miss Meadows, Mr Spagnal, very good," he praised, "five points to Gryffindor and five points to Slytherin."

Spagnal, the Slytherin in question, appeared flabbergasted that possibly the most famous Gryffindor on the planet had just awarded him house points.

"Don't look so surprised, Mr Spagnal," Harry said as his eyes moved around the rest of the class to see how they were doing, "the only place I play house favourites is on the Quidditch pitch, and that's only when I'm spectating."

Within a minute or so most of the class had their brooms in their hands, but there were three who seemed to be having trouble. Walking over to a very short Slytherin girl who was glaring at her broom as if it had insulted her parentage, Harry let down his barriers slightly to see if he could figure out what was wrong.

What he could see in most cases was a magical connection between pupil and broom, initiated by the charms on the magical objects. What he saw in this instance was a tendril of magic actively repelling the broom, which rather explained why it was squirming around on the ground as if it wished to get away.

"Miss Sellby, your frustration is repelling the flying charm," he said quietly, moving closer to the girl. "Try and relax and think of the broom as a dog; you want to command it, but not frighten it away."

"A dog?" the girl asked dubiously.

Harry nodded sagely, hoping that the hair-brained idea that had just come to him might actually work. It had just popped into his head and had seemed like a good plan when he had started saying it.

Very seriously the girl put her hand out again and frowned in concentration, which was of course what had been her trouble in the first place.

"You could always think of a snake if it makes it any easier," he whispered in her ear before she had a chance to try and command her broom.

That made her giggle and Harry could not help but smile as the repelling magic dissipated.

"Up," she commanded and the broom jumped into her hand.

"Good," he patted her on the shoulder and moved on to the Gryffindor on the other side who still had his broom on the ground.

While he had been dealing with Miss Sellby, the other Gryffindor who had been having trouble had managed to coax his broom into life.

"Mr Wiles," Harry greeted quietly as the boy looked around and became aware that he was the only one with his broom not in his hand, "I promise it will not bite."

The boy did not appear to believe him as the child continued to eye the broom warily.

"Muggle raised, right?" Harry asked conversationally, and Wiles nodded hesitantly.

Before he could continue there was snickering from the sub-group of Slytherins.

"Stupid Mudblood," he heard and his reaction was instant.

He whirled on the group, easily identifying the boy who had spoken, and even if he did say so himself, carried off a fair impression of Professor McGonagall when one of her pupils had done something incredibly stupid, life threatening and insulting all at the same time.

"Fifty points from Slytherin," Harry did not yell, but his voice carried like a knife across the courtyard. "Mr Tainer get out of my class and do not return until you have a civil tongue in your head. You will go straight to Professor Snape and you will explain to him how you embarrassed his house on your very first day. Do I make myself very clear?"

The boy almost cowered, dropped his broom and ran back towards the school entrance, and all of his friends had gone horribly white.

[Is everything all right?] Draco's concerned voice filtered into his head and Harry realised he was still glaring at the Slytherins.

[Yes,] he replied quickly, shaking himself out of the anger he was feeling, [nothing I couldn't handle. Sorry to alarm you. One of the Slytherins decided to call one of the Gryffindors a Mudblood and I think I just scared him into civility.]

[You'll have to show me later,] his soulmate replied in an amused tone. [And there I thought I would be the one with the reputation.]

The link dropped back again and Harry turned back to his floundering pupil with a smile on his face.

"Sorry about that, Mr Wiles," he said pleasantly as the boy looked at him in shock, "now where were we? Ah yes, I was Muggle raised myself, and I can understand how all these magical things can be a little intimidating. The secret is not to be afraid and to show them who is boss; can't have the appliances dictating to us, can we?"

That drew the first glimmer of a smile from the boy and Harry knew he would have them all flying sooner rather than later.

Of course once he got them all in the air his troubles would really start.

Chapter Text

"Uh-oh," Harry said when he read the note from the headmaster.

"Do I want to know?" Draco asked, looking up from where he was making notes at the desk.

"The venue for the DA has changed from the Charms Classroom to the Great Hall."

"Oh," Draco said. "So more people signed up than expected then?"

The new DA was open to fifth years and above, but Harry had been thinking it would be the same old crowd with a few extras. They had discussed using the Room of Requirement, but Albus seemed to want that reserved for special purposes only, and Harry had to say he agreed. He had thought the Charms Classroom would have been plenty large enough. Apparently he was wrong.

"I'm hoping it's for another reason I can't quite think of at the moment," he said, "but yes, I expect you're right."

"Come on then," Draco said, putting his notes aside, "let's get there before any fights break out."

Harry took a deep breath, mentally checked his shields, because it always helped him focus, and stood up.

"Okay," he said, "let's get this over with."

As they stepped out of their room, they found Ron already in the corridor.

"You got a note too then?" Ron asked, looking a little paler than usual. "What have we let ourselves in for?"

"I don't know," Harry replied, "but if there are too many people we're roping in Susan as well."

As if on cue, one of the doors further up the corridor opened and out stepped Susan Bones.

[Merlin's balls,] Harry swore silently.

Since he was staff now he thought it was probably better to do such things where only Draco could hear.

"The headmaster asked me to see if you need some extra help," Susan said.

Harry had a sinking feeling.

"Great," he said, putting on a smile nevertheless. "Let's get there before the Gryfdfindors and Slytherins get any ideas."

"You think the Slytherins will be there as well?" Ron asked, looking even more perturbed.

"Oh undoubtedly," Draco said. "Half of them have probably been told to attend by their parents."

"Brilliant," Ron said.

With that they headed off towards the Great Hall.

As they approached the doors Harry pulled himself to his full height and did his best to look confident. Draco of course was the epitome of poised that Harry could only dream of. It really was amazing how different Draco's outside could be to his inside.

When they walked in Harry's stride almost faltered, but he kept walking.

[So that's a full house then, do you reckon?] he asked Draco silently.

As he spoke three sixth years dashed in behind him and joined the other pupils.

[I'd have to say yes,] Draco replied.

[Wish me luck.]

[I would, but you don't need it,] Draco replied. [You taught a whole group of barely skilled children how to defend themselves so well that this summer the whole lot of them confounded a bunch of fully trained Aurors. You'll be fine, and if any of my house try anything I will hex them every which way from Sunday.]

[Good to know,] Harry replied and strode to the front of the hall.

This was going to be interesting if nothing else.

"Good evening," he said, and discovered that no one was paying the slightest attention to him.

The whole of the fifth, sixth and seventh years were milling around in groups of friends, talking, and only about six people at the front even seemed to have heard him. Deciding to start off as he meant to go on he did something that might have been considered a little dangerous. Holding out his hand he pushed raw magic into the air above where he, Draco, Ron and Susan were standing. It exploded with a huge bang.

"What the hell?" and variations there of came from several directions, as several people ducked, but, in the end all eyes were on him.

[Impressive,] Draco said, which just showed how much Harry's Gryffindor tendencies were rubbing off on his soulmate.

"As I said before," Harry said with a smile, "good evening and thank you for coming."

As he was speaking several more people entered the hall at the back, people he had not been expecting at all. With Pansy and Hermione in the lead, they plus Terry, Neville, Seamus and Goyle made their way up to the front of the room and stood behind Harry.

"Thought you might like some help," Pansy said very quietly and Harry nodded his thanks.

"This club is not a duelling forum," Harry continued his speech. "There will be no formalities and competitions here. What you will be learning is real defence for real circumstances. Some of what we do will count as extra-credit in your normal DADA lessons, some will not, but hopefully it will all be fun."

A few people murmured a laugh at that.

"Now to the important bit. For safety reasons any combat practice will be strictly controlled. Anyone caught casting a spell on anyone else without explicit permission will be thrown out and not allowed to return. Is that understood?"

He made sure to run his eye over all the Gryffindors and Slytherins in the room. Most heads nodded.

"Good," he said. "Now some of you are more advanced than others and some I know, some I don't, so what I'd like to do this evening is assess those who are unknown quantities. Everyone who stayed for the summer classes, you'll be working with Ron, Susan and Terry at the back of the hall. You're known quantities. Everyone else, please remain at the front."

He turned to his group of friends.

"All okay with this?" he asked quietly.

"You're the boss," Seamus replied for everyone it seemed.

"Great," Harry said and fished a list out of his pocket. "Ron you know what you're about, can you fill in the others for your group?"

Ron nodded and the three broke away, heading for the back of the room.

"This is what I had planned to test out new members," Harry said, showing the rest of the group his plan. "If we divide them up we should be able to get through everybody this evening. In the end I plan to have mixed groups working with each other, so all we need is a basic idea of competence."

With a quick spell he duplicated the list and passed it around. Thanks to his friends, the evening was looking a lot less complicated. It was still going to be hard work, and he suspected some of the new club members were going to be difficult nuts to crack, but they definitely had a good chance.

* * *

They were so busy the first day that it wasn't until after the first DA meeting that anyone had a chance to see anyone else's new rooms.

"Look, thanks for all your help tonight," Harry said to his friends as they walked back into their corridor.

"United front," Pansy said and put her hand over her heart.

Harry laughed along with everyone else. He was pretty sure that every one of the ex-seventh years would have turned up had he asked, but the handful had been just right. They didn't want to scare anyone off.

"And you needed eyes in the back of your head tonight," Hermione said. "Were we ever that bad?"

"Probably worse," Draco commented.

They hadn't thrown anyone out, but it had been close.

"Who'd like a cup of cocoa?" Hermione invited. "Come on in, I've got some biccies my mum sent as well. They're new and I'm sure everyone is going to love them."

It was impossible to turn down an invitation like that.

"Sorry, I have some reading to catch up on," Terry said. Except, apparently if you were a Ravenclaw. "See you all at breakfast."

"Night," Ron said as everyone mumbled similar things.

Hermione opened her door and led the rest of them in. Harry looked around with interest. Hermione's room was the same size as theirs, but differently laid out. One whole wall was book cases with a desk in front and there were a couple of chairs in front of the fire.

"Make yourselves comfortable," Hermione said and pulled out her wand.

A house elf appeared a moment later. Hermione ordered them all cocoa from the small creature, who seemed inordinately pleased to be serving the new staff members.

Harry perched on the end of the bed with Draco beside him, while the others grabbed the chairs of a spot on the floor.

"I think I might die if the pace continues like this," Seamus declared, flopping onto the rug with true drama.

"The beginning of the year is always mad," Neville pointed out.

"Yes, it'll settle down soon," Susan agreed, "at least I hope it does."

"I still can't believe we're all staff," Hermione said. "I keep looking behind me to see if I'm in the wrong place."

"Teaching is strange," Pansy said with a nod, "and I had to take house points from a Ravenclaw this morning. I thought there was going to be mutiny."

"Harry already reduced one Slytherin to tears," Draco commented.

"He deserved it," was all Harry had to say on the matter. "He won't be using that language in my class again."

"And here I thought Draco would be the authoritarian," Pansy said.

As Draco launched into the reasons he was far more intimidating than Harry, Harry sat back and enjoyed the camaraderie. They were all young, all a little out of their depth and all facing the possibility of war, and yet they were all simply getting on with it. It was good to have friends.

* * *

"Want to see my room?" Ron asked as they left Hermione's.

"Sure," Harry said before Draco could even begin to formulate a reply.

He wanted to go over some notes for tomorrow's lessons before bed, but it seemed Harry had other ideas.

[Can't play favourites,] Harry said and Draco realised he was the one broadcasting for once. [We won't stay long, promise.]

[Only for you will I go into a Weasley's den,] Draco replied.

[Should I tell Molly that?]

[Not on your life!]

Harry grinned at him as Ron led them to his door.

[My eyes!] Draco all but wailed as Ron opened his room.

[For once I agree with you,] Harry replied as they both stared.

Ron's room was done out in orange, Chudley Cannons orange to be precise, in far more garish abandon than Ron's room at the burrow ever had been in all the time Draco had known it. It was an offence to the senses and Draco wanted to wince.

"Great isn't it," Ron said with a beaming smile.

[Are you sure it's safe?] Draco asked as they slowly followed their friend in.

He had no idea how anyone could live in such a garish place. The bed curtains were orange and black, with patterns that looked suspiciously like Cannons logos. The bed cover was orange, the pillows were orange and the rug on the floor was orange. Hogwarts had outdone itself with orange.

[Warn Hermione now,] Draco said, [she must never, ever let Ron decorate anything in their future house.]

The more rooms he saw, the more Draco realised that each one had been personalised especially for the occupant. How the decorators had known he decided not to ask, but the room really did scream 'Ron'.

"It's very bright," Harry commented. "Much brighter than your room at home."

"I know," Ron replied. "It's just how I always wanted it, but Mum would never let me. She said I'd never sleep if I had exactly the right colour, but she was wrong."

Rather than posters all over the walls like Ron's bedroom at the Burrow, there was one specially framed poster of the Cannons with two crossed broomsticks below it.

[Please never let the Cannons win the cup,] Draco said, [he'd turn the whole school orange.]

[I wish I could say you were wrong, but this is Ron,] Harry agreed.

"I like the poster," Harry said and managed a bright smile for his friend; Draco was impressed.

"It's a good one," Draco agreed.

[I think my eyes may begin to bleed if we stay in here much longer,] he said silently.

"I couldn't believe how brilliant it was when I first walked in," Ron continued to gush. "Even my desk has the right colour highlights."

[Is he colour blind?] Draco asked. [It's the only thing I can think of to explain it.]

Harry didn't reply.

"The rooms are just right for all of us," was what Harry did say, out loud. "You'll have to come and see ours another night."

"Yeah," Ron said.

"Good plan," Draco agreed. [Make an excuse,] was what he told Harry and tried not to sound as if he was begging.

"Look, sorry to run," Harry said, "but it was a really long day today. I had to take three second years to the hospital wing, can you believe it? Great room, Ron. See you at breakfast?"

Ron nodded.

"Trelawny keeps getting me to read tea leaves," Ron said. "Wish I was on a broom too."

"You're better off with the tea leaves," Harry promised, "trust me. I finally understand why Madam Hooch was always so stern in our lessons."

"Good night, Weasley," Draco said and grabbed Harry by the arm before he could launch into another conversation. "Orange is definitely your colour."

"Night, Malfoy," Ron replied and Draco breathed a sigh of relief.

[We are never coming back in here,] he said as they headed for the door, [at least not without a charm to dim the view.]

He could tell Harry was trying not to laugh.

* * *

"Okay, Harry," Hilde said with a knowing smile as they sat around in her guest quarters drinking butterbeer. "What career had you planned on?"

Their lesson this week was going to be all theory, hence the more comfortable surrounding than the practical set up they usually used in the Room of Requirements.

"Um," Harry replied since he hadn't really thought about it.

He was going to be teaching for the next year at least, but his life was so hectic that he really hadn't had time to consider what might come after that. All paths led to Voldemort at the moment, and beyond that there was no telling where things would lead.

"I hadn't got that far in planning," he admitted rather sheepishly.

[Not as if either of us have had much of a chance,] Draco added silently, but gave no indication on the outside that he had commented at all.

"Let me rephrase the question," Hilde said, still smiling, "you've read about many of your predecessors. What did they do?"

That much was true, he had read an awful lot about Hecatemae of the past and he mentally flicked through what he had learned. It began to dawn on him very quickly that they had been a very diverse group, and although plenty of the books mentioned accomplishments, he couldn't put his finger on a career that any of them may have had.

When talking about people like Nicholas Flamel or Albus Dumbledore one would have said Alchemist and Teacher with a side of warrior thrown in, but Harry could not place any of the Hecatemae quite so easily.

Looking to Draco, he was met by a expression that said his lover was thinking about the same thing. When Harry sent him a questioning look he was met by a raise of the eyebrows which clearly said 'and you're asking me, why?'.

"I think Martha Klout was a farmer," Harry finally said, a little bemused, "and Yamara Tailspin was a Potions master for a while, but I'm not really sure about anything else."

Hilde's smile grew wider.

"Which is actually my point," she said with her usual cheerful demeanour. "Hecatemae are a diverse lot, and they have tended to move from discipline to discipline as well. Yamara was the talk of the Potions world in her time for about fifty years and then she moved on to Tranfigurations. However, every Hecatemae has one thing they have done their entire lives; they create spells."

Harry wanted to kick himself for not figuring that out.

"So moving from one thing to another is perfectly normal?" he asked.

Hilde nodded.

"There had been a few Hecatemae who have focused on one area of study their entire lives, but, and this is my personal opinion by the way, I think your kind have such a unique relationship with magic that its really all the same discipline."

That was quite a bold statement.

"You're saying that Hecatemae don't have to specialise because they already are," Draco said.

"In a way," Hilde said and grinned. "Hecatemae of the past have held positions just like everyone else, however, it seems as if they are drawn to create new magic."

"Tell me about it," Harry muttered to himself.

"What was that?" Hilde asked.

Harry looked at Draco.

[We told our other friends,] he said.

[And Hilde literally can't tell anyone until we say it's okay,] Draco agreed surprisingly quickly.

When his soulmate nodded, Harry turned back to Hilde.

"I've already done it, kind of," he said.

Unsurprisingly Hilde all but bounced in place; she was a very enthusiastic person.

"Really?" she asked. "Do you mind me asking how?"

Harry took one last glance at Draco, who lifted an eyebrow at him in encouragement.

"I've found an alternative to Apparating," he said.

"Oh my," Hilde said, mouth falling open just a little. "That is huge."

"We know," Draco said, "and what's even bigger is it makes anti-Apparation wards useless. That's why no one can know yet. It would directly endanger Harry."

Hilde nodded along.

"And you're sure it works?" she asked.

"I've done it," Draco replied. "There was something of a panic."

"We call it Transferring," Harry added. "It's the same as Apparating in principle, but it uses a different method of connecting wherever you are to wherever you want to go."

"Rather than the barbaric blasting of a hole," Draco said with a laugh and Harry rolled his eyes.

Draco took far too much enjoyment out of teasing him about that. Hilde managed to control her smile, mostly; it wasn't as if they hadn't been over Harry's aversion to Apparating several times.

"We've been working on new wards to protect places that need it," Harry said, "but we're keeping everything under wraps."

"Of course," Hilde agreed, "very sensible. Merlin only knows what would happen if Whatsit's lot got hold of this before places were protected."

As ever Hilde's epithet choice for Voldemort made Harry smile, even if they were talking about such important things.

"I assume you discovered this because of your dislike of Apparating?" Hilde asked.

"It was a complete accident," Harry admitted with a nod. "We would have told you earlier if we hadn't been so petrified of what it might mean."

"Oh, I totally get it," Hilde replied, as un-judgemental as ever. "Thank you for telling me now; this is so exciting. Have you thought about any other areas you might like to look into?"

Given how busy everything was at the moment, Harry hadn't, so he said so. Hilde looked positively delighted. It looked to Harry like she might have some suggestions.

Chapter Text

It was mid afternoon and it wasn't their weekend to supervise the Hogsmeade visit, so Harry was using the time to catch up on his Quidditch reading. When he had told Draco that he had to be up on all the latest gossip because of his position as a flying teacher, his soulmate had laughed at him for a good two minutes straight. Draco just did not understand how important it was in case his students ever brought it up.

The major advantage of teaching a discipline like flying was that it involved no essays, at least not unless he was making a point. He was willing to help Draco mark his, but today his aid had been turned down. Which was why Draco was down in the Potions classroom and Harry was in their room. They could easily have been in the same place, but Draco had wanted to test something or other and Harry wanted to read in natural light.

The feeling started at the base of his spine and lanced upwards, daggering into his skull. He couldn't help it, he dropped the magazine he was reading onto the bed.

[Harry?] immediately came from Draco's direction.

[Sirius,] was all he replied.

The grating sensation always made his nerves feel raw, even though Harry was always glad to see his godfather.

"Now this looks posher," were the first words out of Sirius' mouth as he faded into existence.

"We've gone up in the world," Harry replied and smiled.

Pushing the reaction Sirius caused in him to the back of his mind, he stood up.

"What have I missed?" Sirius asked.

"Well Albus held summer classes," Harry said, "and trained up a good percentage of the students from fifth year and above. It's now the Autumn term and fifteen of us are Assistant Professors to the teaching staff."

"That's fantastic," Sirius said. "How on earth did Albus get the Ministry to agree to that?"

"I think he probably bribed and subtly threatened," Harry replied and grinned, "because Fudge is still a moron."

Sirius lifted his eyebrows.

"What did he do now?"

"Well, promise you won't try and do anything rash."

[He can be as rash as he likes,] came from Draco's direction and Harry realised he had managed to open the connection between them rather wide; [what can Fudge do to him anyway.]

[Oh, he'd try something.]

"I don't like the sound of this," Sirius said, "why do I have to promise?"

"Because sometimes you do things without thinking," Harry pointed out.

Sirius looked no more impressed.

"Promise or I'm not telling you."

Harry could play that game too.

"Okay," his godfather said, "I promise."

Sitting back down, Harry waited until Sirius folded into the chair.

"Well, we have no actual proof, but let's just say everyone involved believes it has Fudge's fingerprints all over it," Harry began. "One of the Aurors who was here for the summer classes wasn't actually really an Auror at all, he was an Unspeakable."

"But what would one of them want outside the Department of Mysteries?" Sirius asked.

"Seems there is a new section of their department that not even most of the other Unspeakables know about," Harry explained. "They're tasked with investigating what creates a dark lord and how to stop another rising."

"Which sounds perfectly reasonable," Sirius said, "but Fudge is involved so I'm guessing it was a disaster."

Harry nodded.

"Wait, what was the man doing at Hogwarts?" Sirius added.

"You get one guess who they thought might be another dark lord candidate," Draco said as he walked through the door.

Harry did some mental calculations and tried to work out how on earth Draco had made it from the dungeons so quickly.

[Hogwarts likes me,] Draco said as Harry broadcast his confusion, [especially when it has to do with you.]

"Not you," Sirius said staring at Draco.

"No, even more ridiculous," Draco said and indicated Harry. "By the way, hello, Sirius."

"Hello, Draco," Sirius replied, "nice to see you again. You have to be joking, they seriously thought Harry is a dark lord in waiting?"

"Not only that," Draco said and Harry knew what was coming because Draco was never, ever going to forgive Fitzsimons and his superiors for what had happened, "they were testing him."

Sirius sat forward in his chair, all but radiating anger.

"They did what?"

"Fitzsimons set up little accidents in the classes to see what Harry would do," Draco said. "Of course Harry saved the day every time, but he had to endanger himself every single time. One of them was a shrinking shield around Remus."

Harry didn't even see Sirius move, he just kind of shimmered and he was on his feet.

"Fitzsimons as in Reginald Fitzsimons, dark hair, pompous ass?" Sirius demanded.

"Yes," Draco said.

"I already have a bone to pick with him," Sirius said, "he was one of the investigators in my case."

Now that was something Harry had not known.

"I'll make him wish he had never been born," Sirius continued.

"No you won't," Harry said very quickly. "Merlin knows what he worked on before he was sent on this errand for Fudge; he could have been in the Death Chamber. You promised not to do anything rash."

Sirius opened his mouth to object, breathing loudly through his nose, which given he wasn't really alive definitely made a point. Then he deflated a little.

"Argh," Sirius said and sat back down again. "The weasel would deserve it."

"Maybe," Harry said, "but he's in St Mungo's in psychiatric ward under guard. He's perfectly sane, but we can't do anything about it yet. We'll get him and we'll get Fudge, but legally."

"I thought you were a Gryffindor," Sirius complained.

"I am," Harry replied, "but I'm bonded to a Slytherin so occasionally I think things through. Albus has his eye on the whole thing and he's angry about it, so it won't just be swept under the rug. We've got a war to win first though."

"And what do you say?" Sirius asked Draco.

"Bury the body where no one will find it," Draco replied with one of his most evil smiles, "but Harry won't let me."

"Merlin save me from over protective, homicidal family," Harry said and threw his arms in the air.

Draco and Sirius just shared a grin. Harry really pitied anyone who went up against his soulmate and his godfather.

* * *

Harry tended to be somewhat pensive after Sirius visits, but Draco could tell that his lover was even more thoughtful than usual. The joy at seeing and being able to interact with his godfather was always clear in Harry; it burnt very brightly as far as Draco was concerned, but something had been bothering Harry this time, from almost the moment Sirius had arrived.

"It's not right," Harry finally said and turned to him as he changed for dinner.

"What's not?" Draco asked, fully aware that Harry would probably need leading through his thought process about this to be able to explain it.

"Sirius," Harry replied with a small frown, "the way he is. It's not right."

Draco stopped undoing his shirt and walked over to sit down next to his soulmate.

"It's never been right, Harry," he pointed out, taking Harry's hand and holding it gently.

When it came to Sirius, Draco liked to make very sure Harry knew he was there for him.

"But it's worse," Harry told him, the frown deepening. "I can shut a lot of it out now, but now it's worse. It's like the universe knows he shouldn't be like that and it keeps shouting louder and louder about it."

That did not sound good.

"How much worse?" he asked, needing to understand.

He could feel Harry's mind working and he thought about just opening up to find out what was going through his lover's head, but then Harry opened his mouth and began to speak.

"It's hard to explain," Harry said, unconsciously squeezing his hand a little; "it's not much more, but I still know that it is. I can sense it. I think we have to try and fix him."

That was not quite what Draco was expecting, but he realised he should have expected it; when Harry saw something was wrong, Harry always wanted to fix it.

"And you think you can?" he asked carefully, because when Harry set his mind to things there wasn't much Harry couldn't do, but Draco was not sure this would be possible.

"I don't know," Harry replied, looking down at the floor, "but I feel like I'm being asked to help."

Draco had experienced how Harry was connected to the universe first hand, but it was still something that only Harry truly understood and all he could do was believe his soulmate when Harry said such things.

"Harry," he said after a few moment thought, "have you considered that helping might mean sending Sirius to the other side properly?"

He felt a spike of shock from Harry and saw denial immediately flow through his soulmate's features, but as Harry went to speak Harry stopped himself. The frown that marred Harry's forehead was deep ridges that spoke of inner turmoil. Draco really didn't want to be the one suggesting what he was suggesting, but someone had to do it.

"I think it's more than that," Harry said eventually. "I don't know what it is, but I think there's something else, something I don't understand yet."

Once upon a time Draco would have scoffed at such a pronouncement, but now he simply accepted it.

* * *

Harry and Draco had rooted through the library for some time on Sunday, but there had been nothing that stood out to help with Sirius's dilemma. He would have asked Hermione, but she had been away visiting her parents for the weekend and, by Monday, they were all busy with work. It wasn't until their usual weekly meeting with Hilde that Harry thought about it again.

"It's cold out tonight," Hilde said as she breezed into their usual meeting room. "I think there could be a really early frost this year."

"You do have to wonder why the Founders picked Scotland," Draco commented. "A nice spot in Cornwall would have been much warmer."

"True," Hilde agreed. "Anyway, how are you both this week?"

"We were fine until Saturday," Harry said.

"Oh," Hide said, sobering immediately, "what happened?"

"Sirius visited," Draco revealed.

"And this caused issues?" Hilde asked.

"Nothing new," Harry admitted, "but it's the feeling of wrongness, it's growing. I don't think it can go on."

"How so?"

Harry sat down and frowned as he thought about it.

"It's nothing I can put my finger on. I've known that Sirius being here is an offense against the natural order since the moment it first happened, that's why it had always affected me so badly, but it's still changing. I think every time he visits makes things worse."

"And you sense this, but it's not quantifiable?" Hilde asked.

Harry nodded, sometimes talking to her was so much easier than anyone but Draco because Hilde understood that a lot about him wasn't straightforward.

"Is there any precedent?" he asked. "Has anything like this happened before or is there anything about it in Hecatemae Law?"

"Well, now that you mention it," Hilde said and immediately had both of their attentions.

"It has happened before?" Harry asked.

"You remember we talked about Primrose Bluebottle, the Hecatema who's area of study might have been useful for this problem, but most of the information on her has been lost?" Hilde said.

Harry nodded, he remembered that conversation all too clearly. It had been a low point of the whole Sirius situation.

"Well I think it may not all be as lost as I thought," Hilde told them. "I found another reference. I believe there may be more information out there, she is just one of those my department hasn't got round to investigating yet."

"What did the reference say?" Draco asked for, sitting down next to Harry.

"For a time she studied the Industriamorphius Curse," Hilde said.

"I've never heard of that," Draco said, which made Harry glad because, for once, he wasn't the only one in the room who was unfamiliar with something.

"Not many have," Hilde replied, "and how it is done is lost in time. We have records it existed mainly because of Primrose and we didn't have the name until I dug a little deeper. The curse is said to have been able to transfigure a body from matter to energy and then transfer that energy from one plain of existence to another, essentially from life to death."

"The veil," Harry whispered.

"My thoughts exactly," Hilde said with a nod. "From what little information I have been able to dig up, Primrose studied the mechanisms of the curse to see if it was possible to undo it."

"And what did she find?" Draco asked.

"We don't know."

That was not what Harry wanted to hear.

"Lost to time as well?" he asked.

Hilde nodded.

Draco put his hand out and took Harry's, giving him a comforting look.

[The information may be somewhere,] Draco said, [don't give up hope.]

Harry inclined his head a little, but he was fed up of coming so close and then finding out someone somewhere had lost something.

"Did you find anything else?" Draco asked.

"A little, and I will keep on looking," Hilde said. "I'll have everything I have copied and sent over as soon as I get back."

At least there was that much. Harry could only hope they would find more.

Chapter Text

Preventing pupils killing themselves on brooms, with potions or in the DA kept Harry and Draco busy for the rest of the week, but the worry about Sirius would not leave Harry. When the weekend came around again there was only one thing to do and Draco dragged him to see Hermione.

"What do you need?" Hermione asked as soon as she saw them.

"How did you know we need something?" Harry asked.

"I recognise that look on your face," Hermione said, "and it means something is important. Come on in."

Draco let Harry enter first and then followed.

"We need everything ever written about Primrose Bluebottle?" Harry said without preamble.

"I thought Hilde said the records were lost?" Hermione said, giving them what Draco had silently named her intrigued look.

It involved open, questioning eyes, with the tiniest frown between them. When he saw that look he knew Hermione was about to launch a quest for knowledge.

"Hilde has been doing some more digging, she hadn't mentioned it because she didn't want to get our hopes up," Draco explained, "but she thinks Primrose may just be missing, not lost. She found another reference To a spell called the Industriamorphius Curse."

"I've never read about that one," Hermione said. "Well Hogwarts has one of the best libraries in the world and you would not believe how many of the books aren't even catalogued. Sometimes I think someone deliberately spelled the library to make some things difficult to find. Madame Pince has needed an assistant for years; she's been fighting a losing battle in some sections."

"If anyone can get it in order you can," Harry said.

Ever since Hermione had taken her post as Assistant Librarian the complaints about the Hogwarts library had been common place in their conversations. Of course it was totally obvious that she was enjoying every minute of it as well. If there was one thing Hermione loved it was knowledge at her fingertips. Draco could empathise.

"So why now?" Hermione asked.

"Sirius."

Harry was concise and to the point and Draco saw Hermione realise just how important this actually was.

"Come on," she said, walking over to her desk. "Tell me everything about what you want to know and I'll put it through the new charms we're trying out and see what comes up."

* * *

They had told Hermione everything they knew and taken her to their room to look over the information Hilde had sent through. From what Harry could see, Hermione had made a list of keywords as they went on, before leading them off towards the library proper.

Most of the library was neat and ordered and as well kept as any library could want to be, however, when magic was involved nothing was ever quite straightforward. Hermione took them straight past the books the students were likely to want, although not to the Restricted section.

"Good morning, Madam Pince," Hermione said as the Librarian appeared from among her precious stacks.

"Good morning, Hermione," the woman replied and then disappeared again.

"I think you are the only person she has ever trusted with her books," Draco whispered, careful to keep his voice down.

"Well, unlike most people who come through here, I know how to treat them," Hermione said with a superior smile.

Hermione led them to the back where she had created herself a small office between two book shelves. The table she had set up as a desk was, of course, perfectly organised. She opened what looked like an ordinary roller deck to Harry, but the cards inside seemed to have infinitesimally small writing on them.

"Hmm, let's just try her name first," Hermione said, pulling out her wand and writing 'Primrose Bluebottle' into the lid of the box.

The cards in the roller deck began to undulate and then flipped round all by themselves. One card in particular popped up from the mass and part of the writing on it expanded so it was readable. Harry almost sighed, it said 'Hecatema: the Greatest Loves in History', a book that he had read and that had had no interesting information in it as far as he remembered. Of course he hadn't been looking for anything specific back then.

Hermione tapped the deck with her wand and it flipped again.

This time a different book came up: 'Transfiguration through the Ages'.

Another tap and another book; Harry had a feeling this was going to take a while.

"Look," Hermione said when she had six titles written down, "you go and find these and I'll keep searching."

Draco took the list from Hermione and immediately duplicated it with a quick spell.

"You go that way," Draco told Harry, "I'll go this way. Thank you, Hermione."

"Yes, thanks," Harry said, clutching his copy of the list.

The Library was so big it was a little intimidating and Harry just hoped this wouldn't turn out to be a wild goose chase.

* * *

"There you are."

Harry looked up from the book he was reading to see Ron standing in the aisle.

"Hi, Ron," he said and smiled.

"Do you realise what time it is?" Ron asked, coming over.

Harry glanced at the window and to his shock realised that the sky was orange; the sun was setting.

"No," he said, "I didn't."

"You three have been in here all day," Ron said. "Where are Hermione and Draco?"

"Restricted Section," Harry replied, leaning back in his chair and stretching his back. "It was giving me a headache so I volunteered to come back out here and go through these."

He indicated the stack of books on the table. It was only then he realised that his to-read pile only had two tomes left in it and all the others were in the finished pile. No wonder it was so late. Possibly Hermione and Draco were rubbing off on him; he hadn't remotely noticed the time.

"Find what you were looking for?" Ron asked.

"Not really," Harry replied; "it was just so long ago."

"Well, dinner is going to be a long time ago if I don't dig you out of here," Ron said. "Are you lot coming?"

At the mention of food Harry's stomach gave a distinct gurgle. Since eating was strictly forbidden in the Library and none of them had been paying any attention to time, they had missed lunch.

[Draco, it's dinner time,] Harry sent to his soulmate. [Are you two ready to give up for today.]

[Really?] came back. [Merlin's beard, I had no idea.]

[Me either,] Harry said.

[We'll be right out.]

"They're just coming," Harry said.

"Better than the floo network you two," Ron said with a grin.

Harry smiled back.

When Draco and Hermione arrived they seemed to have feet of parchment between them, all covered in neat notes. Harry looked at his couple of pages and felt rather inadequate.

"Ron," Hermione said and beamed, walking over and giving her boyfriend a quick kiss.

"Um," Ron said clearly pleased, but having seen what Harry had also spotted, "you have something in your hair."

Hermione put her hand up and felt around, coming back with something green.

"Oh, it's moss," she said and put it in her pocket; "one of the books hasn't been opened in a very long time. The cover seemed to be petrified."

Harry was continually amazed by the books in the Restricted Section. There was bizarre and then there was some of the tomes hidden in the recesses of that part of the library.

"Come on," Ron said, "I'm hungry and I have to tell you what happened in Hogsmeade today, you are not going to believe it."

The way Ron grinned, his story was going to be good.

"I could eat," Draco agreed. "How about we regroup in our room after dinner to go over the notes? There must be something in here."

Harry nodded as he stood up. He hoped Draco was right.

* * *

It turned out Ron's story was just Seamus being Seamus, who had ended up falling into a pond that had previously been a puddle. No one was still quite sure how Seamus had managed to transfigure the tiny expanse of water into one that would have been suitable for ducks, but he'd ended up in the middle of it up to his neck.

"You know," Harry commented as he followed Draco into their room, "if we could harness Seamus' bad luck into repeatable magic we'd be on to a real winner."

"No," Draco said very firmly. "You are not experimenting with the Irish idiot. Now pick up your underwear from this morning, Hermione will be here in a minute."

When Harry blushed and hurried to do as he was told, Draco counted it as a win. Harry wasn't exactly the untidy sort, thank heavens, but when he had something on his mind he tended to forget some of the more mundane things in life. Draco accepted this, but he had standards and to have an untidy room when visitors were due would just be mortifying.

For his part he went to the desk and spread out his notes on top of it. There had been plenty of references in various books, the problem was, most of them were virtually the same. He began crossing things out as he scanned what he had written.

A few minutes later there was a knock on the door.

"Come in," Harry called and Hermione walked in. "Pull up a chair," Harry invited and conjured two identical ones to the one they usually had at the desk.

Draco moved some of his parchment so Hermione could put her notes down as well.

"So," Draco said as he scanned the pile of information, "what we have to do is decant all the pertinent information from all this waffle."

They had decided early in the day, when they had realised how many books they would be looking at, that simply scanning quickly and copying every entry was the best way to go. When Harry put down his two sheets of parchment Draco realised that maybe he had forgotten to mention that part to Harry.

"Okay," Hermione said and handed some of her notes to Harry, "cross out everything that is duplicate information on the pages you have, then we'll come back together and see what we've got."

Draco nodded and pulled up his chair. The desk helpfully expanded as the three of them sat down.

"Did you do that?" Hermione asked, looking at Harry.

"No, it does it automatically," Harry replied.

"We discovered it when Harry wondered why the desk glowed," Draco added. "Yours probably does it too."

There were identical desks in each room so he assumed they were all charmed in the same way. He was surprised Hermione hadn't already figured it out given all the books she usually had around her. Then again she was very tidy with such things.

"Useful," Hermione said, before turning to her task.

Draco went back to what he had been doing when Hermione came in.

It took them an hour before they had a definite list of all the information they had found. It made a pathetic half page of writing.

"All that and this is all we have to show for it," Harry said and Draco could feel the despondency coming off his soulmate.

"At least it's something," he said, trying to be the positive one since he knew how much this meant to Harry. "Hilde gave us everything she thought existed until recently and we have found more, so there's hope."

"Exactly," Hermione agreed. "Primrose sounds like a fascinating woman. Can you imagine actually talking to her?"

"It would make this a whole lot easier," Harry said, but managed to raise a small smile.

Draco scanned their list one more time.

"So we know she studied the Industriamorphus Curse, which was originally an ancient form of execution. These two sources agree it was because she met a victim of the curse," he said, pointing at the notes on the page. "This reference indicates that the Veil was partially based on her research, but all the details have been lost. She was a Transfiguration expert, but completely changed disciplines after working on the curse. No one is quite sure what she did after that. She was bonded to Thomas and they lived in what is now Kent."

It was pathetic really.

"So we have more information," Harry said, "but none of it is any use."

"But it is," Hermione said. "We have proof that the curse and the Veil are connected. This is important; it gives us a basis to work from."

"The Unspeakables aren't exactly going to give us everything they have on the Veil though," Harry said.

"No," Draco agreed, "but we know the information must be out there. All we have to do is find it. Harry, this might take time, but we have a start."

Harry didn't feel as if he believed that.

[Honestly, Love, this is important,] Draco added silently. [We know we're on the right track.]

* * *

Harry's eyes snapped open as he sensed the world around him shift; his vision only backed up this feeling as he found himself standing. Not sure what had happened, he looked around, trying to discern if he was in a dream or if he had somehow, accidentally moved locations while asleep. The room he was in looked very old fashioned, even more so than he had come to expect from the Wizarding world.

There was a chair and a table to one end of the room, both of which looked handmade and the books on the bookshelf looked more primitive than even some of the really old ones he had seen in the Restricted Section. It was dark through a lead lattice window and there was light because of floating candles, but even they looked somehow more individual than the ones he was used to from Hogwarts.

"Welcome to my home," a voice said from behind him, "whoever you may be."

He turned to find a woman he did not recognise standing at the top of a set of wooden stairs. She looked like she had just woken up. She was wearing an off white night gown and a thick robe over the top. Her hair was long and blonde and plaited down her back in the longest braid Harry had ever seen.

"I'm sorry," he said, feeling totally unalarmed by her for some reason he couldn't fathom, "I don't know how I got here."

"No matter, young gentleman," the woman replied, "I am used to strange magic at my time of life."

As she stepped further into the light cast by one of the candles he realised she was older than he had thought at first glance. She had wrinkles by the side of her eyes even though he could not see any obvious grey in her hair. There was something about her that felt familiar.

"How might I address you, Friend?" she asked.

"Oh," he said, realising he was being incredibly rude, "I'm Harry."

He only just stopped himself giving his full name. Something made him feel at ease around the woman, but he had enough self preservation instincts to keep his identity to himself.

"Prim," the woman offered in return.

"I'm so sorry for waking you," Harry said, "I really don't know how I managed to get here."

Prim stepped a little closer and Harry felt power tingle up his spine. His companion stopped at exactly the same time, a look of surprise on her face. Then she looked at him hard as something about her expression changed.

"By gods, you're a boy, but you're like me," Prim said. "I've been expecting a visit for a while, the signs were right, but I never suspected something like this."

Harry really didn't understand, so he lowered his own barriers a little, very carefully, to see what he could see. Prim was awash with magic that continually flowed around her and out to touch everything she was close to. Several facts all clashed together in Harry's head, but he didn't believe what he was thinking.

"Are you Primrose Bluebottle?" he asked.

"That would be I," she replied, "but surely you knew that if you've come travelling?"

Harry shook his head.

"I don't know what travelling is," he said, because he was having trouble comprehending what was going on.

"You mean you didn't seek out the knowledge of those who came before?" Primrose asked.

"Well I was trying to find more information on you and your work," Harry admitted, "but I never guessed this, whatever this is, was possible."

"Dear boy," Primrose said, "who trained you?"

"No one," he replied, "well at least not until recently. No one expected me because I'm a boy. It's all been rather complicated and I'm still learning everything. I'm from ..."

His voice caught in his throat as he tried to say Hogwarts. It was the most bizarre sensation.

"Don't try and tell me specifics, Harry," Primrose said, much more kindly, "the magic won't allow it, since you are the future and I am the past. You have travelled in time, well at least your mind has, and you've managed to produce a very strong likeness, I thought you were really here when I first saw you. It is an ability all Hecetamae have through the magic that binds us, although it is not something usually done lightly or by accident."

"I don't think we know about this anymore," Harry admitted, "I'm sure Hilde would have mentioned it."

"It is not something the families allow known outside their number," Primrose told him, "the knowledge is passed very carefully. Is Hilde not of the families?"

"You mean the families who are there to train us?" Harry checked.

Primrose nodded.

"It's ..." Harry tried to explain it wasn't done that way anymore, but found the words stuck once again.

"Too much detail," Primrose said, "sorry, Harry, I should not have asked. Anyway it is nice to meet you. How may I help you?"

"Just like that?" Harry asked.

"Of course, Harry," Primrose said with a smile, "your need must be great or you could not have travelled."

He was about to say more when he felt a spike of worry that was not his own. There was no doubt in his mind it was Draco and he could feel his soulmate as if they were still close, but he couldn't quite communicate. Panic flared in his chest almost immediately.

Chapter Text

It was too soon after they had been separated. Harry knew instinctively that it wasn't like it had been when Lucius had kidnapped Draco, this wasn't a curse, but it didn't help much. The nightmares were still a common occurrence and this was too close.

"Draco," he said, as he couldn't reach his soulmate.

"Be calm, Harry," Primrose said, approaching him, "I assume Draco is your soulmate?"

Harry nodded. His heart was beating way too fast and it was very hard not to simply panic. Only Primrose's kind, calm words helped him hold it together as his mind tried to fly off into the terrible events of the previous year.

"Your mind is on a different plane to his," Primrose told him calmly, "and if, as you say, this is an accident, neither of you is prepared for it."

Harry almost laughed; he was more than not prepared for it. This was right up there with playing tag with Death Eaters. Clutching his ring, he used it to focus and try and push the fear away.

"If you concentrate on him you can bring him here as well," Primrose said. "I have only travelled once and Thomas was supposed to stay behind, but I did not like the separation either. Send out your love and your need to your Draco, he will do what he must, even if he does not understand it."

Harry nodded, stamping down on the anxiety he was feeling as well as he could and concentrating instead on the feeling of Draco. It was hard because his mind kept sending him flashes of how it had been when Draco was under Dissaepio Iugum and it was upsetting his concentration. The hard metal under his fingers that he had crafted specifically to protect them against the curse was all that kept him from losing it completely.

"Harry, what's wrong?" Primrose asked.

"We were ... someone tried ..." Harry did his best to explain, but talking about it really didn't help. "Dissaepio Iugum," is what he eventually said.

Primrose looked aghast.

"Okay, Harry," she said, looking him directly in the eye, "focus on your Draco. Send him all your love, think of nothing else. This is not a curse, he will come to you. Do you understand?"

Harry nodded. It was ridiculous, he knew what Primrose said was true, he could feel it, but the panic was still there. All he could do was as he was told and he focused everything he had on Draco. He prayed his soulmate would know what to do.

Then he felt it, a hand on his arm; a very familiar hand. It was not a gradual process, from one second to the next, Draco went from slightly obscured to totally clear in his mind, not there, to standing in front of him. Harry couldn't help the way he grabbed Draco into a hug in relief. If the glimpse he had of Draco's face and the way his soulmate clung to him as well was any indication, the feeling was mutual. The wave of relief he felt coming through their bond gave it away completely.

"Harry," Draco said, pulling back and checking him over as Draco was want to do, "what happened? What is going on."

With his soulmate right there everything was coming back into perspective and Harry began to feel silly for his panic. It was really not how he wanted to make an impression on one of his magical forebears.

"Draco, this is Primrose Bluebottle," Harry introduced.

For a moment Draco just stared at the woman and then at Harry.

"Time travel into the distant past?" Draco sounded completely incredulous. "That is impossible."

"In most cases, yes," Primrose said, smiling at Draco's adamant tone, "but Hecatemae are linked by ancient energy and unbound by the rules of existence which contain others. At times of great need we are able to reach back to those who have come before. I am very sorry it has caused you both so much distress."

Draco looked at Harry.

"How do we not know this?" As ever Draco was very unhappy to be ignorant of something so important.

"I think it's been forgotten," Harry admitted.

Draco blinked and then turned back towards Primrose.

"Please forgive me," he said, "where are my manners. Draco Malfoy, pleased to meet you."

"And I you," Primrose said, still smiling. "Harry is quite a surprise."

"To all of us, I assure you," Draco replied, "for many, many reasons. What I do not understand is how, if this is the past, no one knew to prepare for him."

"The magic protects the future," Primrose replied. "It does not allow anything unessential to be revealed by the traveller to the one being visited and that which is unavoidable I will be unable to reveal to any but my soulmate."

That part actually made sense to Harry.

"Now, how may I help you?" Primrose asked.

"We're interested in your work with Transfiguration into energy and transference to the other side," Harry said.

"That line of research was very dangerous," Primrose said, losing her cheerful air. "Why would you wish to revisit it?"

"Because it's been lost," Draco spoke for them both, "and we surmise someone built an artefact using it. Someone close to Harry was lost through the artefact, but is able to appear as energy only Harry and I can see."

"But it feels wrong," Harry continued. "It's like the universe is screaming when he appears. I need to understand what happened to him to find out how to stop the screaming."

Primrose walked over to the chair at the end of the room and sat down.

"I knew I never should have revealed what I learned," she said. "It was supposed to be a warning, not a plan to recreate the effect."

"So it is true you researched the Industriamorphius Curse?" Harry asked.

Primrose looked at him, her expression pensive.

The sound of feet on the stairs distracted them all and Harry looked over to see a man come charging into the room.

"Prim?" the man asked.

He was tall, red headed and built like a wrestler.

"Thom," Primrose said, holding out her hand to him, "these are Harry and Draco, they have travelled to speak with me."

Harry recognised the same protective instinct in Thomas' stance as he often saw in Draco. Even if Primrose had not mentioned his name before, Harry would have known the Hecatema's soulmate for who he was.

"But..."

The way Thomas looked over to Primrose before he said anything further spoke volumes by itself; the two were having a silent conversation. It was kind of fascinating to see other people do it. Thomas' eyes flicked over to both Harry and Draco as the wizard and his soulmate talked.

"Welcome to our home," Thomas said eventually, but there was still worry in his eyes.

"Sorry for the timing," Harry said, "this is all new to us."

Thomas nodded his head, he seemed to appreciate the gesture.

"We were just talking about the Industriamorphius Curse," Primrose revealed out loud.

"That is very dangerous magic," Thomas said, "and can only be cast by the strongest magical folk."

"We are beginning to understand that," Draco said, moving just a little bit closer to Harry. "The curse has been lost to history in our time, but someone used the principles to create an artefact which was used on someone Harry cares very deeply about. He is dead, but not dead and he can return to be seen by Harry and myself. However, it feels deeply wrong to Harry."

"We need to understand what happened to him to find out if there is a solution," Harry added. "Every time he appears it is worse. I don't know what will happen if things just keep going on as they are, but I don't think it will be good."

Primrose nodded.

"His energy will be out of alignment," she said, "it is likely that, in the end, there will be something of a very large explosion as the natural magical forces attempt to rectify this."

Harry felt a bit lightheaded; he could only imagine what would happen if that magical explosion happened at Hogwarts.

"He's drawn to me," he said, "he appears without realising it. I don't think he could stop."

"Then I see why you have been brought to me," Primrose said. "Please, come and sit down."

She waved her hand and two chairs like her own appeared, only they floated for a second before aligning with the floor. They did not look quite real. However, as Harry moved to sit in one, it felt quite solid.

"Pure energy," Primrose said and he realised he must have been broadcasting his confusion. "You will not be able to interact with anything physical here. You are only walking on the floor because you think you should be."

That was an interesting piece of news.

"I think the whole idea of travelling makes my head spin," Harry admitted.

"I am of the same mind," Thomas said, relaxing somewhat and walking over to perch on a trunk that was to the left of Primrose's table.

It looked to Harry like it was a habitual move.

"The Industriamorphius Curse is so hard to cast because it requires a wild wand," Primrose revealed after everyone was settled.

Harry looked at Draco.

"I have one of those," Harry said.

"The curse requires so much power that only a pure source carries enough energy," Primrose continued. "Transfiguring a living thing into pure energy is not so difficult, but transferring that energy from the mortal plane, that is the complex part."

"We found a reference to you having met a victim of the curse," Draco said, "is that true?"

"I did," Primrose nodded, "but I did not experience the same reaction Harry has been having. The person I met was more like a ghost and they were drawn back, like your friend, by a connection to a living individual. They asked me to end the connection, which I did. What I believe had happened with your friend is something I hypothesised during my research; the transfer from this plane of existence to the next was not carried out correctly. Was their magic involved other than the artefact you have mentioned?"

"He'd just been hexed," Harry said.

The image of Sirius falling through The Veil shot through his mind with nasty clarity. The way Draco's hand tightened in on his own let him know he had probably shared it.

"And there was a battle going on at the time," Draco elaborated.

"Then I suspect something interfered with this artefact's magic," Primrose said, fingers steepled in front of her face and tapping gently against her nose as she considered the situation. "Such a possibility is why I chose to reveal this particular research to certain individuals. You are very lucky there were no repercussions before this."

Harry was beginning to understand why he had had such an adverse reaction to Sirius from the start.

"And is there a way to put Sirius back in alignment?" he asked.

He began to silently pray that Primrose was not about to tell him that the only solution was the make Sirius properly dead. The Hecatema sat silently for another few moments thinking and finally looked at Harry.

"I was able to conduct several experiments thanks to some ghosts of my acquaintance," she revealed, "and I came to a simple conclusion, although our magic is able to move ghost energy, bind it, even banish it back to the other side, magic from this plane cannot fundamentally change that energy because of its connection to sources those of us living cannot begin to understand. The only way to affect such energy would be to transfer it back to the living side."

"Are you saying the only way to stop the possible disaster around S..." Draco stumbled over Sirius' name, "our friend is to resurrect him?"

"Well, resurrect his energy," Primrose said, "yes."

"Is that even possible?" Harry asked.

"Theoretically, yes," Primrose said, "but in reality it would take a very large amount of wild magic, far more than in a wild wand."

"So to achieve a miracle someone would have to achieve another miracle first," Draco said.

"A valid analogy," Primrose said with a small nod.

The solution was so close and yet so far and Harry took a deep breath to calm his raging thoughts.

"Would you mind explaining how it could be done if we had enough power?" he asked.

Primrose reached out to him, placing her hand on top of his arm, although her fingers disappeared into it slightly. He felt the tingling of magic at the touch.

"Of course," she said.

* * *

Luckily the next day was Sunday so they had something of a lie in. Not so luckily was the fact there was a friendly Quidditch match Harry was supposed to be refereeing. They had spoken with Primrose for hours and then found themselves back in bed, only to fall in a dead sleep. When their alarm went off, Draco woke up and cancelled it with a flick of his wand, Harry didn't even stir.

Draco felt completely drained and Harry was so deeply asleep he didn't so much as notice Draco dragging himself out of bed. The fireplace was only a couple of steps away and yet it felt to Draco like a mile. They were definitely not going anywhere anytime soon.

Grabbing a handful of floo powder, Draco threw it into the embers of the fire, which sparked up in response.

"Albus Dumbledore," he said as clearly as he could manage and put his head into the flames.

"Draco, my dear boy," Dumbledore said from where he was sitting at his desk, "what can I do for you?"

"I'm very sorry, Albus," he said, "but last night Harry had an incident. Nothing bad," he added hastily, "but it took a lot out of him. We won't be able to make it to the Quidditch match today. Is there anyone else available to ref? We'll make it up to them."

"Of course, I completely understand. I am sure it can be arranged. I do hope we haven't been working Harry too hard," Dumbledore replied.

Draco gave the headmaster a tired smile.

"Oh, it's nothing to do with lessons," he promised. "We have been researching about that certain skill we have spoken about," there was no way he was mentioning the apparition issue through an open floo network, "and it caused a reaction. Not unpleasant, quite interesting actually, but very tiring. Harry is currently dead to the world."

"Which I suspect means you should be too, does it not, Draco?" Dumbledore asked with a small smile and something of a twinkle.

"I was planning on it," Draco replied, making light of the situation.

He and Harry had a lot to talk about and a lot of thinking to do, but he was too tired to worry about that right then.

"Then I wish you sweet dreams," Dumbledore said, "and I shall ask the house elves to bring you some breakfast around mid morning. Does that sound satisfactory?"

"Thank you, Albus," Draco said, very grateful he wasn't the only one looking out for Harry's health, "that would be wonderful. He's bound to be ready to eat a hippogryph when he wakes up."

"Not at all, my dear boy," Albus replied and gave him a little wave.

He nodded back and then pulled his head out of the fire.

Without even considering anything else he stumbled back to the bed, climbed in, threw an arm over Harry and went back to sleep.

Chapter Text

Harry ate what Draco put in front of him, but he was thinking about far too many things to really taste the food. Everything he had discussed with Primrose was still too clear in his mind for him to worry about such mundane things as fuel for his body. He'd never really been one for magical theory before his true nature had been revealed, but the way he and other Hecatemae thought about magic seemed totally natural to him.

"We need to do some more research," he said as he took a bite of what turned out to be toast and jam as he finally looked at it.

"We do," Draco agreed, "but first, have you thought of who we should talk to about this?"

That caught Harry's attention and pulled him out of his contemplations.

"No one," he said and rather shocked himself even as the words fell from his mouth.

Draco sat down with a sigh.

"I knew you were going to say that," Draco said. "I told Albus you had an incident due to researching the alternative to Apparition when I told him we wouldn't make the Quidditch match today."

"Quidditch match?" Harry said, and then it dawned on him what day it was. "Damn, what time is it?"

"Far too late to worry about that," Draco told him, "and don't worry, Albus was going to deal with it. Not really the point I was talking about, though. Care to explain why I lied for us without even thinking about it first thing this morning?"

Harry felt more than a little guilty as he realised he must have unconsciously been influencing his soulmate.

"It's bigger than even we thought yesterday. They'll never let us research something this dangerous," he said, voicing the conclusion he had come to after hearing what Primrose had to say, "and we can't explain how we got the information."

Surprisingly Draco just nodded as Harry spoke.

"What about Hermione?" Draco asked.

"We'll have to tell her something," Harry said, "but I don't think we can ask her to help anymore."

It was all instinct, but Harry had learned to go with those ever since his heritage was revealed.

"Okay, then I will do the lying," Draco agreed. "I'll tell her you had a terrible reaction to what we were doing yesterday and I don't want you investigating it anymore for a while. She already knows we have to keep this secret, so that won't be a problem, and she won't mind keeping a look out for anything she sees in passing."

Harry frowned.

"I'm not sure Hermione will be willing to let go of a research project that easily."

"Don't worry about that," Draco told him, "I'll get out the violins if I have to. Hermione puts her friends above knowledge. We'll just have to pretend that whatever research we're doing in the Library from now on is for the other project."

It sounded so reasonable, but Harry was worried.

"I think this might be really important," he added.

"Have you considered just banishing Sirius to somewhere the explosion can't hurt anyone every time he appears?" Draco said in a reasonable tone.

That made Harry's stomach twist and he put down what was left of his toast. His denial was instinctive as well as emotional.

"I'm not sure there is anywhere," he said; "the universe is screaming very loudly."

"I knew that too," Draco said, "I just wanted to make sure you did too. You're going to be guilty enough about this as it is."

Harry was surprised.

"How did you know?" he asked.

"I'm not sure," Draco admitted. "I probably picked it up from you on some level, it's just obvious. So we're agreed, not even Hermione?"

Harry nodded; this was something they had to do on their own.

"I need to write down everything Primrose told us last night," Harry said, going to put his food down to find some parchment.

"Not until you've eaten everything on that plate," Draco said with a very authoritarian glare. "I have no idea exactly how taxing travelling is, but you passed out as soon as we got back last night and I am not having you doing it again because you haven't had enough calories."

"You should eat too," Harry said just because he could and Draco simply raised an eyebrow at him.

"I am," Draco said and Harry had no doubt his soulmate was unimpressed with his play. "Now eat."

Harry's stomach betrayed him by grumbling, so he relaxed back into his spot and did as he was told. When he had finished two sides of toast, a bowl of porridge and a plate of bacon and eggs, Draco gave him the parchment and a quill he needed to write everything down.

"I can't believe how easy it is to transfigure matter into energy," Harry said as he began to record the details Primrose had explained about her research. "Of course I should have because we all do it when Apparating."

"It's not easy," Draco said, "it's hideously complex, it just looks easy to you. I wouldn't be surprised to find Apparating was created using some of Primrose's research."

"No Hecatema would have designed that spell," Harry protested, "trust me on that."

"Not the blasting part, no," Draco agreed, "but the energy part has your lot written all over it."

Harry shrugged, it would make sense. Of course the history books hadn't recorded that information so Primrose would never get credit.

"Wish I'd thought to ask her about that," Harry said as he went back to writing the details.

Primrose had done some very detailed work in investigating how energy could be transferred from the mortal plane of existence to the afterlife. It was all to do with layers and how one universe sat on top of another and the soul existed in all simultaneously. The body caused what she called a resonance in the soul, linking it to the mortal plane, and death destroyed the resonance, allowing the energy to align with the other side. Ghosts were caused when the resonance was not completely destroyed even though the body died, trapping the soul in the mortal plane.

Of course there were other questions, like consciousness, but Primrose had firmly declared she really hadn't been looking at philosophical questions. She was only interested in what she could measure.

The curse she had studied transfigured a body to energy, merging it with the soul and then used the mess this generated to destroy the resonance. Frankly, Harry found the whole idea monstrous. Primrose hypothesised that what had happened with Sirius was the resonance had not been completely destroyed, only changed, making him able to shift between planes, but not really belonging to either.

Killing the resonance without the natural progression of death took an incredible amount of energy, hence the need for wild magic.

Hypothetically, to bring Sirius back to this plane of existence would require re-establishing the resonance in his essence. Unfortunately this would require significantly more magic than stopping the resonance in the first place.

"Do you think it's possible to harness wild magic?" Harry asked, as he paused in his writing.

It was the question that had been bothering him ever since the theoretical possibility of bringing Sirius back had been mentioned.

"I don't know," Draco said with brutal honesty, "but if anyone can do it, it's you."

* * *

It wasn't until Harry had spent all day avoiding his friends and pretending to be recovering, that he realised there was one important thing they hadn't talked about.

[Travelling,] he said after they had eaten a light supper in their room.

[What about it?] Draco asked.

[Well I know we decided not to tell anyone about what we learned from Primrose, but Travelling seems to be a very important subject that Hilde and her colleagues have lost.]

Draco turned from where he was reading.

"You're right," he said.

"So we're going to have to tell them eventually?" Harry asked.

Draco nodded.

"Of course, but not until we've finished with everything about Sirius."

"Definitely."

And that probably would have been it, but Harry was thinking about it now and he was confused.

"How do you think something so important has been forgotten?" he asked. "Tr..."

He stumbled over the word.

"Tr..."

It was as if his tongue just completely failed when he tried to say it.

"What's going on?" he said as he tried to say it a third time with the same result.

"By Merlin," Draco said, "the fools."

Harry still wasn't quite sure what was going on. It kind of felt like it had when he had been talking to Primrose and the magic had blocked him from revealing something that would have upset the timeline.

"Oh," he said as he realised the implications.

[I think we know why Travelling has been lost,] Draco said. [Some idiot has put the information under a charm. It's unspeakable.]

[But we're speaking about it like this,] Harry pointed out, [and how come people don't have trouble saying travelling normally?]

[A matter of intent,] Draco said, [and I suspect no one ever thought to block mind to mind communication about it.]

[So we can't tell anyone about it even if we want to?]

[Not without figuring out how and possibly when someone did it,] Draco replied. [I'm guessing some moron tried to limit the knowledge to certain people and got it wrong.]

[Probably when the Ministry took over,] Harry added.

[I bet they limited it to their Hecatemae department and forgot to take into account new members,] Draco said. [There's probably a whole section on it in their archives, only no one can see it.]

[We could...] Harry started to say.

[No,] Draco said and gave Harry a stare; [this is a problem for another day. We deal with Sirius, Transferring and Voldemort first, in that order.]

It was said with such finality that it made Harry smile. He loved how Draco seemed to have complete faith that they could actually deal with all three of those things.

* * *

Draco would never admit it out loud, but he was in his element in the Restricted Section of the library. He had loved books since he was a small boy and books with arcane knowledge in them appealed to him a lot. Of course he had never allowed this love to become common knowledge because such things were beneath a Slytherin. Books were, after all, just tools.

As staff they had automatic access to the Restricted Section, but he was still working on excuses to give to Hermione as to why they had not sought her help this time. The section now registered very clearly who had and who had not been using it thanks to the first of Hermione's changes. No one could go in or out without the spell on the entrance recording their presence. Hence she would know exactly how long they had been in there.

Hermione was also still in the process of reorganising the whole of the Restricted Section. Apparently it was something Madam Pince had wanted to do for a long time, but with the rest of the library to look after it had been a low priority.

It had changed even since the last time they had been in and Draco approved. Just looking around he could see Hermione's influence and it made perfect sense to him.

"The books on wild magic are this way," he said after reading the small sign Hermione had put up just inside the section entrance.

There was one of Hermione's little rollerdecks right next to the stack of books they wanted. It made Draco wonder what their world would do without innovative minds like their friend. Without pausing he used the device and came up with two books names. He gave one to Harry and took the other himself.

"Let's get going," he said and squared his shoulders.

Harry just nodded and started looking at the shelves.

* * *

[This is interesting,] Harry said, picking up the book he was reading and taking it over to Draco. [I've read something like it before, but this is much more detailed. It suggests it is the crystal of the wild wand that helps project the magic. The lattice is what allows the wizard to direct the effect and use the magic.]

The entry he had found went into a lot more of the intricacies of the theory, which is why he had brought it over to Draco. He was quite aware he had a decent brain on him, despite everything the Dursleys had ever tried to tell him, but he knew Draco's was better. As his soulmate read he could feel Draco becoming more and more interested. After two hours they might have found their first clue.

[It makes sense that the crystal could be acting like our wands do for our normal core magic,] Draco said, while still reading. [What it doesn't explain is how to get the wild magic into the crystal. Crystal wands are divined, then dug up and carved for use, the magic is already in them. We should copy this...]

[And keep looking,] Harry said and sighed.

[Don't give up, Love,] Draco said and patted him on the arm; [we're learning all the time.]

Harry nodded and tried for a smile. This was just so important and there wasn't enough information.

* * *

They had been in the library for hours and so far they had lots of information about how what they wanted to do was impossible and tended to kill people and not a lot else. Harry hoped they found something soon. He had his nose in a tiny book, which made a change for the Restricted Section, but the magnifying glass that also translated the words was a bit cumbersome to use. So far, it also didn't have any useful information.

Just like last time the magic all over the place in this part of the library was beginning to get to him, but he refused to give up. This was personal.

"Someone actually tried it," Draco said.

Harry looked up and, as soon as he did, Draco waved him over. Harry put down his very small book and walked over.

The book Draco was currently reading was very large and had its own stand, which it was chained to. Draco was wearing a special pair of gloves that had been on the stand next to the book. Harry still found the Restricted Section somewhat perturbing, but Draco had just put the gloves on like it was perfectly normal when he had started looking at the book.

"Who?" Harry asked.

"A conclave of thirteen wizards," Draco said, "in 1631. They were trying to create a permanent portal between London and Prague."

"Why?"

"It doesn't actually say," Draco said, "but I don't think the person who wrote this book approved."

"Did they do it?" Harry asked.

"I'm not sure yet," Draco replied, "the entry is a long one. So far I've only really read the personal history of every wizard involved and what they were trying to do."

Harry glanced over the page Draco was scanning, but the writing was very small and he wasn't exactly sure where Draco was reading.

"Now this might be useful," Draco said after a few moments. "It says here they used an ancient blood ritual to join the conclave together for the ceremony."

Pulling off one glove Draco noted down something in the book he was using to keep track of anything they found.

"We'll have to look that up in a minute," Draco added. "It gave one wizard the power of the whole group."

"That doesn't sound good," Harry said.

"Normally I'd agree," Draco said, "but from what I remember about these types of rituals everyone has to be focused on the same task and it makes everyone vulnerable to everyone else involved. Don't worry, The Dark Lord is not about to try and leech the magic from his underlings."

Harry hoped Draco knew what he was talking about.

"I know we're already in tune," Draco said, "but we could use something like this so I can keep your grounded."

Harry wasn't sure he liked the sound of that either.

"Don't say it," Draco said before he could put the disquiet into words; "we're both doing this whether you like it or not. The more power you have the more chance of success you have so this could help."

He still didn't like it, but Harry knew when not to argue. They would have to talk about it more later.

"Oh," Draco said, leaning over the book again, "now this confirms it."

Draco was so wrapped up in what he was reading that he hadn't put the other glove back on. Harry reached out and grabbed his soulmate's hand before Draco could touch the book with his bare fingers.

"I don't know what those do," he said, pointing at the gloves, "but I think you should wear them. You read, I'll write."

"The book gives unauthorised readers small shocks when they touch it," Draco said, but did pull the other glove back on, "these make it think I am the maker and, hence, allowed to read it. It's not too dangerous, but, thank you, it would have been recorded in Hermione's log."

"Remember if you get shocked I feel it too," Harry said, "I'd prefer to avoid you getting hurt as well."

Sometimes he thought Draco was the one lacking self preservation instincts, not him. Draco smiled at him for the concern.

"It appears the blood ritual was dual purpose," Draco said; "it was also a sacrifice of self to the wild magic. They used it to focus the magic into one place."

Harry noted that down.

"That part was successful," Draco continued, "and their summoning worked."

As he read Draco worried at his bottom lip, eyes focused in concentration.

"Damn over wordy historians," Draco said and turned the page. "Why say in three words what you can use ten for instead."

That made Harry smile, when it came to books Draco was almost as bad as him and magic, only Hermione on books was worse. However, even Harry could see there was only one hand written paragraph on the next page.

"Dammit, the conclave failed," Draco said standing back with a sigh. "Even with thirteen of them the wild magic was too strong. They could stop it destroying, but it wouldn't bend to their will."

"Yes," Harry said, "but they aren't us."

There was no way he was giving up just because no one had been able to do this before.

Chapter Text

It had been just over a week since their very long library stint the previous Monday, and they had been busy days. September was always frantic with everyone getting back into the flow of things. Normal school business didn't simply stop because he and Draco had a project, much to Harry's annoyance. It wasn't that Hogwarts wasn't important to him, it was that, just at the moment, the conundrum of Sirius was more so.

It had been a long day, but Harry was reading over his notes yet again as they prepared for bed. They had so many pieces, but no whole.

"Time to sleep," Draco said, climbing into the bed beside him; "that will still be there tomorrow."

"Hmm," Harry agreed.

He'd read the same part five times and it was getting him nowhere. With a sigh he closed the book, pulled off his glasses and lay down.

"Nox," he said and the lights went out.

Draco turned on his side and snuggled down into the covers, shuffling over so his back was against Harry's side. It was nice and relaxed and cosy and it almost had Harry closing his eyes and drifting off. However, his brain wasn't about to give up that easily.

"You do remember I can feel you thinking, right?" Draco asked after about ten minutes.

"Sorry," he apologised immediately, "I just know I'm missing something."

Draco turned back over.

"Okay," he said, "then explain it to me, maybe it will help."

They really did need to sleep; they had another long day tomorrow, but Harry didn't need inviting twice.

"The conclave managed to summon the magic," Harry said; "it didn't blow them up or destroy everything in sight, so why couldn't they control it."

"Simply not strong enough," Draco suggested.

Harry hummed; he wasn't sure that was quite right.

"What if it's simply not possible to control wild magic at all?" he said.

"Well it has to be," Draco said, "or no one could use a wild wand."

"But a wild wand has the crystal lattice," Harry countered and it was like a little light went on in his brain. "Oh," he said, "oh, maybe that's it."

His thoughts started spinning with possibilities.

"Harry, what is it?" Draco asked and Harry realised he was leaving his soulmate out.

"What if the magic has to change itself?" he said.

"I don't understand," Draco admitted.

"What if the reason it's impossible to control wild magic is that it's fundamentally incompatible with us?" Harry said as he tried to think through the ideas in his head. "What if it's as incompatible with us as our magic is with Muggles?"

"But all the theories say wild magic is just our magic in pure form," Draco said.

"What if the theories are wrong?" Harry said.

It was probably horribly presumptuous, but he just had a feeling. Draco didn't seem to know whether to agree or disagree.

"Okay, forget that part," he said, "but let's just say in its pure form it's impossible to control. In the wand it needs the crystal to be useful, so what if we made something that stood in for the crystal and changed the magic as it passed through it?"

Draco was silent.

"You're talking about a spell matrix," Draco said.

"I don't know what that is," Harry admitted.

"Many magical objects have a spell matrix in them," Draco explained, "so when magic is put into them a certain effect occurs. Usually you have to put a certain spell into them to get the desired result."

"Why do you have to put a spell in?" Harry asked.

"Because otherwise the magic isn't directed enough," Draco replied. "A spell matrix isn't powerful enough to change unfocused magic with just one pass."

"What if it passed through more than once?"

"Then I suppose you would get the desired effect, but how could you get the magic to go through more than once?"

"Ask it to," Harry said and he could feel Draco looking at him in the darkness.

His brain was suddenly alive with ideas and, for the first time since their long day in the library, he felt as if they might be getting somewhere.

"You are going to explain that, right, Harry?" Draco finally said.

* * *

It had been two more busy days and, even though Harry had at least an idea now, he still had to sort out the details. It had been a D.A. night so he was already tired, but as they climbed into bed he knew what he needed to do.

[I have to talk to Primrose,] he said as they climbed into bed.

[You're exhausted...] Draco started.

[Just tired,] Harry interrupted, [and this has been going round and round in my head for two days now. We don't have to get up in the morning and I'm never going to get to sleep like this.]

Draco gave him a long careful look.

[Okay.]

Harry was shocked by how quickly Draco agreed.

[It's been going round and round in my head as well,] Draco admitted.

It said quite a lot about how preoccupied Harry had been that he hadn't known that already.

[Are you sure you can do this?"] Draco checked.

Harry nodded.

[With everything Primrose explained, I've got it.]

[Want me to Travel with you?]

This time he shook his head.

[I'd rather you were on this end, just in case.]

Draco frowned and bit his lip, but did nod. The anxiety that simple admission caused in his soulmate was more than obvious to Harry. He didn't like it, but he was sure of this course of action.

[I'll be as quick as I can,] he promised.

[Good,] was all Draco said to that.

It would take a little while to mentally prepare, but Harry knew this had to be done. He only hoped it seemed as effortless as last time had, until they had returned, that was, but he could cope with sleeping in.

* * *

This time Harry knew exactly where he would be when he opened his eyes. He did not like the disconnection from Draco, but they had agreed to try it that way and so he put up with it.

"Harry," Primrose said, getting up from her desk, "how lovely to see you again."

Primrose looked very different with her hair braided in an ornate style and wearing a beautiful dark green gown. She looked like the lady she undoubtedly was.

"Hello," he said, marvelling at how her workshop came alive with sunshine flowing into it through the window. "Sorry to bother you again."

"Not at all," she said, smiling, "I very much enjoyed our discussions last time."

"I think we have a way to bring Sirius back," Harry told her, "but I wanted to discuss it with you first."

"Ah, Harry," Primrose said, conjuring him a chair, "I have a feeling I am going to be very jealous when you have finished."

"Given how dangerous it is," he said, "I don't think so."

"Exactly how dangerous?" Primrose asked, growing serious.

"Very," Harry admitted, "but I don't think I have a choice."

Some of the time he thought he was probably crazy for what he was contemplating, but the more he considered it, the more he knew there were so many factors that were forcing his hand. It made a change to be thinking about risking his neck for something other than the fight against Voldemort.

"Explain away, Harry," Primrose said, so Harry did.

He told her about the matrix stone, the blood ritual and then his coup de gras: "and I don't think it's possible to control wild magic, I think you just have to ask it to help. Magic had to have come to humans at some point and it must have been wild, so it has to be possible. I don't think all the researchers have been looking at it the right way. What if magic originally combined with people because it wanted to?"

Primrose opened her mouth in a little 'o' and then smiled.

"That," she said, "is a remarkable theory."

"I've been thinking about how it feels to use my wild wand," he admitted, "how it takes so much concentration. I think it's because I have to force the magic to work, my magic has to push it to do what I want, but I think it might be easier to ask it."

"Have you tried?" Primrose asked.

Harry shook his head.

"This is only a feeling," he admitted, "but I don't think it would work with a normal spell. I think it needs something vital."

"What makes you think that?"

"A feeling," was all he could say, but Primrose nodded as if that was explanation enough.

"Sometimes feelings are all we have to go on," she agreed. "So you plan to create a matrix then attempt something no other witch or wizard has managed to ever do and practically perform a miracle."

"You're going to tell me I'm insane, aren't you?" Harry said.

"No," Primrose replied, "no I'm not. I don't really know you, Harry, but I have a sense of you. From what little you have been able to tell me, your life seems fraught with dangers few of us have to face. This seems to be another one which you must confront. The peril you feel is very real and, unfortunately, you are the only one who can undo the wrong which has been done."

Somehow, Harry had hoped, maybe Primrose would have told him he was wrong, that there was another way. Now it seemed that much more real. He was going to have to attempt the impossible ... again.

* * *

When Harry wandered off carrying the box with his wild wand in it, no one ever questioned or followed him, which was an advantage. Since using it could have such explosive results it was a perfectly valid idea to go and practice by himself. What no one saw this time was when he stopped by the Potion's classroom and picked up the stone Draco had left there for him earlier.

There was only one place he could think of that would be totally safe for what he planned to do and he headed for the Shrieking Shack. He and Draco had already prepared one of the rooms a few days earlier and it was totally shielded from the outside, but also far enough away from the school that, should anything go wrong, no student would be endangered.

With the use of his invisibility cloak, it really wasn't hard to get all the way there without being seen.

Once inside he activated the wards, started a fire in the grate and settled in for what was going to be a long session of spell work.

At the moment the stone was simply that; inert rock. It was grey and uninteresting and looked like an average, quarried chunk of stone. It wasn't even magical in origin, in fact they had been very careful to acquire it from a purely Muggle source. It was completely free from all magical influence, just how Harry needed it.

Kneeling down, Harry reached out to where he had placed the box containing his wild wand and put it on top of the stone he intended to turn into a magical matrix. This was a matrix for wild magic and so the only way to create it was with wild magic, even if it was slightly tamed by the crystal. Opening the box carefully, he surveyed the gently glowing wand inside. It was always beautiful and always a little intoxicating.

He had practiced on and off with the wand ever since Draco had given it to him, but he knew he was very much not proficient with it. However, given what he had learned from Primrose and the subsequent reading he and Draco had been doing, he had an idea why.

Taking the wand from the box, he did not immediately take it in his right hand; he laid it flat over both of his palms and closed his eyes. He could feel the magic encased in the crystal, how it writhed against the confines. For a while he just let the sensation roll over him as he became familiar with it. Only then did he reach out for it. He did not bring his will to bear on the magic he could feel, he simply allowed his own core magic to reach out and touch what was there.

At first it snapped at him, like a trapped animal, although he suspected it was more of a reaction than anything sentient. It hurt in something of an abstract way, but he didn't shy back, he stayed firm, waiting to see what would happen. His mind equated it to a cat trying to scratch him as he felt his magic attacked several more times, before the bursts of power stopped.

Slowly he opened his eyes and the wild wand was glowing even more brightly than usual. Very carefully, not sure that what he was doing would even remotely work, he reached out further with his own magic, ghosting around the power contained in the wand. It undulated under his touch. The rawness was still there, the untainted, pure power, but as he moved his magic it began to flow in time rather than fighting.

Now he moved the wild wand into his right hand, dipping the tip so that it just touched the top of the stone in front of him.

Creating a matrix was a matter of setting a magical idea in stone. It took clarity of thought, concentration and bursts of magic. The overall process was likely to take at least three days, if not four, which was why Harry had started now.

Harry had memorised every part of the spell to reignite the resonance within the energy that had been a human soul, or in Sirius' case, his body and his soul. Settling in to what was almost a meditative state he began to form the spell in his mind. If he could imprint the stone with the elements of the spell, any magic that passed through it would begin to take on the form of the spell and eventually cast it, like a very specific wand. Of course if the magic was not strong enough nothing would happen as the spell failed and the magic dissipated, hence the need for wild magic.

Focusing only on the formation of the spell, Harry stared at the wild wand and the stone and pushed with his core magic. The wild magic within the wand moved far more easily than it had before and a spark of gold and silver leapt from the wand into the stone.

It felt so effortless as he did it, but the moment it was over Harry found himself gasping. Sweat erupted on his forehead and he had to put the wild wand down as the magic scratched him again.

[Harry?] Draco's worried voice was instantly in his mind.

[I'm fine,] he promised, [this is just hard.]

How anything that had felt so easy had taken so much out of him he had no idea, but he had no intention of doing it again immediately.

[Are you sure?] Draco checked.

[Very,] he said. [It's draining. I think it's the backlash. I just need to make sure I take a few minutes between each try.]

[Well don't push too hard,] Draco said. [If I have to come peel you off the floor I'm making you mark all my first year potions essays.]

[I'll be careful, I swear,] Harry promised. [I just wasn't expecting it the first time. I'm sorry I interrupted you.]

[Never be sorry about that, you dolt,] Draco replied, apparently somewhat appeased. [Just make sure you are careful and channel your inner Slytherin.]

[I can't do that,] Harry said, [I'd never get anything done. You're my inner Slytherin and you only ever think about sex.]

Draco's mental squawk of indignation made Harry laugh.

[Right, you're fine,] Draco said. [Just don't expect to get away with that comment without reprisals.]

[I look forward to you revenge,] Harry replied and went back to his matrix stone.

Chapter Text

"Draco, can I borrow you for a few minutes?" Pansy asked as they all headed back to their corridor after dinner.

It was DA night, so they would all be heading back out again shortly, since most of them had continued helping with it. Draco turned from where he had been chatting to Harry about what they were going to practice that evening.

[Here it comes,] Harry commented, [she's finally decided we're all bonkers and she's going to kidnap you.]

Draco just about managed to keep the smile off his face.

"For anything in particular?" he asked.

"Well I haven't had designs on your person since we were fourteen," she replied, "but..."

"I'm gutted."

She smiled at his dramatic flair.

"I'm introducing the effect of potions on some Transfigurations tomorrow," she said, "and I'd like to make sure I have everything perfect."

[She could ask Professor McGonagall about that,] Harry said.

[Ah, so you are learning,] Draco commented back. [This has nothing to do with potions. Makes a good excuse though.]

"Can you manage without me for five minutes?" Draco asked, giving Harry a very pointed look.

"Um," Harry replied playing dumb, which made Seamus snigger like a twelve year old.

"I'll make sure he doesn't get into any trouble," Hermione volunteered with a huge grin.

"Oh thanks," Harry responded to that.

"Come on, Pans," Draco said, "before we catch Gryffindor idiocy."

"Way too late for that," Pansy replied, but led Draco off towards her room.

It wasn't the first time Draco had seen inside Pansy's current residence, but he was always surprised each time by the delicate femininity of it. Pansy always showed a hard edge to the outside world, like armour, but her room was all pastels and flowers. Draco always found himself hoping that, after this war was done, Pansy would have more time to be herself and could expose her gentler side to the world.

"Okay, Pans," he said once the door was closed, "what is it you really want?"

"What are you and Potter up to?" she asked in a very blunt and direct manner.

Draco was shocked to realise his friend was worried about him.

"So you noticed then," he said.

"Stop deflecting," was her terse response to that.

"It's one of Harry's projects," Draco said after a few seconds silence, "and, no, I can't tell you what it is."

Pansy frowned.

"He's discovered something else as well as ..?" She did not mention Transferring directly, even though Draco was sure Pansy's privacy charms would be as good as any he and Harry had.

"Let's just say, if he's successful, people will be talking about it for a long time," Draco replied.

"Is it dangerous?"

"Of course it is," Draco said with a shrug. "When has Harry ever found anything that wasn't dangerous?"

"And you haven't told anyone about this, not even Dumbledore." It was not a question.

"You have been paying attention," Draco said with a nod of his head.

Pansy crossed her arms, narrowing her eyes speculatively.

"So why wouldn't they approve?" she asked.

"They wouldn't understand."

"Why?"

"Because they can't comprehend the gravity of the situation; they would think it was personal and they would interfere."

"It's really dangerous then," was what Pansy took away from that.

Draco inclined his head.

"It is to do with The Dark Lord?"

"Pans," Draco said, "I can't tell you. Just trust me when I say it is very important and we are taking every care possible. Whatever else you believe, believe that I am still a Slytherin."

"I do," she said, "but when it comes to Potter your judgement can be severely suspect."

It wasn't as if Draco could deny that, so he didn't try.

"Fine," she said when he didn't reply, "but I'm watching you. If I see anything that makes me think you've gone too far I am telling Hermione."

Draco smiled at that, both because Hermione seemed to be everyone's go to person to stop Harry doing something stupid and that Pansy had used the Gryffindor's first name. Things really had changed since the beginning of summer.

"Thank you for caring," he said, well aware it would be far too late before anyone would see anything. "See you at the DA."

Pansy sighed dramatically, but did give him a small smile.

"What did I ever do?" he heard her mutter as he turned to go.

[Pansy has noticed we're up to something,] he told Harry as he left Pansy's room.

[So we need to worry?] Harry asked.

[Not yet.]

[We'll just have to be more careful until Monday,] was Harry's conclusion.

* * *

Draco stepped into the room where Harry was working and placed the large package he was carrying down to one side. His soulmate was kneeling in the centre of the room next to the stone he had been working on for the past few days. It was no longer the plain grey it had been and it glittered as if full of a thousand tiny facets, only it wasn't gems in the granite, it was magic. Harry's arms were at his sides, bent at the elbow with his hands in front of him, palms up. Across his palms was the wild wand and it was an almost hypnotising sight.

Of course Draco had known what Harry was doing, his soulmate had even shared some of his experiences with Draco first hand, but seeing it in reality was breathtaking. He could sense the magic, not just through Harry, but with his own magical abilities and it made his skin prickle.

Draco knew Harry was aligning himself with the wild wand in what he had taken to calling 'asking' rather than casting. Harry looked almost serene and it was at times like this Draco was reminded of what his soulmate truly was. This was Harry being himself as only Harry could.

Not wanting to disturb his soulmate, Draco waited silently in mind and body and just watched.

Eventually Harry opened his eyes and shifted the wand to his right hand.

Draco realised he was holding his breath, so captivated by what he was seeing.

Even from the side he could see the total concentration in Harry's expression as with complete focus Harry let his magic flow. Silver and gold light leapt from the end of the wild wand, entwining like two streams of molten metal and disappeared into the stone. Since his first try Harry had become more and more proficient and the light went on for several second. The hairs on the back of Draco's arms all stood up.

It ended suddenly as Harry gasped and blinked and the light level returned to normal in the room.

"Draco," Harry said, turning to him with a smile, "right on time."

Harry looked tired, but as Draco stepped towards him, he pushed himself up and stood, leaving the wild wand sitting on the stone.

"That was incredible," Draco said, giving his soulmate a once over with his eyes and his other senses just in case.

That brought an even bigger smile to Harry's face.

"I think I'm getting the hang of it," Harry said and Draco walked right up to him, giving him a quick kiss on the lips to show how impressed he was. "I've been thinking about other possible applications. Imagine if you could create a magical object with no hint of the magical signature of the creator at all; it would be compatible with everyone. The medical applications alone..."

Draco took Harry's face in both his hands, effectively shutting up his soulmate. He had only seen the light in Harry's eyes in Ravenclaws with new ideas before.

"Absolutely amazing," he said, "but one thing at a time."

He smiled and kissed Harry again.

"Oh, yeah," Harry said and smiled back a little sheepishly.

"I think one day your name is going to be down in history for so many things," Draco said, "but today we need to concentrate on Sirius."

Harry nodded.

"I think I am beginning to understand how Hermione feels when she gets going on one of her research kicks," he said. "It's weird. I don't feel this way about the Apparating."

"Maybe this is more you," Draco said and took Harry's hand. "I brought everything else we will need."

"The robes arrived?" Harry asked.

"Half an hour ago," Draco said and led Harry over to his parcel.

He hadn't shrunk the package for transport because what it contained had been specially decontaminated of all magic. Casting anything on the contents would risk undoing all the good work. The wrapping was designed to withstand most casual magic, but you could never be too careful.

Harry knelt down beside the parcel and pulled on the string keeping it sealed. The paper had been folded very precisely and as Draco watched, Harry carefully pulled it back while making sure not to touch anything inside. On top there was a knife and a bowl which were required for the blood magic part of the ritual. Underneath that was a robe so white it almost shone and Draco knew there was an identical one beneath that as well.

Draco had utilised a few family connections and some rather underhand deception to order the items from a very specialised supplier. There was one advantage to being a Malfoy and that was the ability to obtain things without anyone asking questions. All the things he had ordered were perfectly legal, but the last thing either of them needed was anyone finding out what they were doing. Draco could only imagine the furore, even if Harry explained why. A few Galleons in the right places had assured complete confidentiality.

Harry sat back and Draco felt a tremor of something coming from his soulmate.

"Everything alright?" he asked.

At that Harry looked up and gave him a slightly unsure smile.

"Suddenly it seems real," Harry admitted.

Draco couldn't help it, he looked over at the stone that Harry had been working on for days.

"I know," Harry said, without Draco having to say anything, "but that's all theory. It's kind of like a game that I only know is more serious deep down. Seeing everything we need in the same place, somehow, it makes it seem much more now."

"Ever since you started throwing around wild magic it has all been very now to me," Draco said as Harry closed the parcel and tied the string once more.

Climbing to his feet, Harry came to stand in front of him, a very serious look on that expressive face of his.

"I'm sorry," Harry said, reaching out and taking Draco's hand, "if there was any other ..."

Draco reached up with his other hand and silenced Harry with a light finger on his lips.

"You don't have to explain," he said, looking his soulmate directly in the eyes, "I understand. I know, and I am with you every step of the way. You never have to apologise to me for something like this, okay?"

For a moment Harry simply looked at him. There was so much knowledge and age in Harry's eyes, far too much for an eighteen year old wizard, and sometimes Draco wished he could wipe some of it away. He wished he could take the same from himself at times as well.

"I love you," is what Harry finally decided to say.

Draco found himself smiling despite the seriousness of their conversation.

"You are such a Gryffindor," he said and Harry's lips twitched as well.

"If you are suggesting I say what I mean without hinting at it for days," Harry said, "then, yes, I totally agree."

Draco rolled his eyes, but did reach out and pulled Harry in by the front of his shirt for another kiss.

Chapter Text

It was after supper, the Saturday before Halloween and Harry waited silently under his invisibility cloak near Hagrid's hut. Hagrid was currently tending the Thestrals so there was little chance of him being seen, but he was being careful. Tonight was very important.

Hermione and Ron thought he was planning out a lesson for the DA in the Room of Requirement while Draco was overseeing a detention for some wayward third years who had blown up one too many cauldrons in Snape's classes. The part about Draco was true, but the detention had ended fifteen minutes ago and his soulmate was on his way to him now.

He didn't need to see the black shadow moving towards him to know Draco was close and Draco made a beeline to him even though he was invisible. Wrapped in a cloak that almost seemed to absorb light it was of such dark fabric, Draco was all but invisible himself. However, as soon as Draco was close enough, Harry threw his cloak around his soulmate as well.

[Well, if you're ashamed to be seen with me,] Draco said in an affronted tone.

Harry almost laughed. Draco always knew how to drag him out of his darker thoughts.

[Don't leave me standing around in dark corners if you don't want me brooding,] he replied.

[Sorry,] Draco apologised, [Snape wanted to talk about the first year lessons for next week, I couldn't exactly tell him I was in a hurry because we're taking a jaunt into the Forbidden Forest.]

The quick peck on the cheek was somewhat unexpected and more than a little awkward under the cloak, but it did make Harry smile.

[Come on,] he said and they set off.

It wasn't until they stepped through the first line of trees that they removed the cloak or spoke again.

The Forbidden Forest had always been foreboding, but it was even more so since Harry's awakening to his new senses. The whole place was alive and, if he let himself, he could feel it. This was not just a forest where magical creatures lived, it was a magical place itself. That was why the first thing Harry did after he took the cloak off was reach out to one of the trees, place his palm flat against it and close his eyes.

Whenever he had been in the Forbidden Forest he had always felt as if he was being watched, now he knew it was true. It wasn't just the residents who watched from the darkness, it was the forest itself.

Being very, very careful, Harry sent a small trickle of magic into the tree and waited. It was the closest he could get to a 'here I am'. After a few moments he felt the prickle of magic coming back to his palm. It was over in seconds, but when he stood back and opened his eyes again, he smiled.

"For the first time in my life," he said, turning to Draco, "I actually feel that I'm allowed to be here."

"You might," Draco said.

Harry couldn't help being reminded of the first detention all those years ago and the frightened little Slytherin trying to hide behind bravado.

"Come here," Harry said, taking Draco's hand and placing it against the same tree, covering it with his own. "May I?" he asked.

Draco nodded.

Harry had an entirely different relationship with magic than any other wizard and he very gently pulled on his soulmate's, urging the tiniest trickle into the tree again, but this time Draco's. It wasn't something a wizard would have found easy to do. Harry knew the moment the forest acknowledged Draco as well, because Draco's features filled with something like wonder for just a second.

"That..," said Draco, but seemed to run out of words.

"Exactly," Harry agreed.

They really didn't need to talk about it; it was something of a singular experience.

No longer feeling as if he was interloping into a world he one hundred percent did not belong in, Harry pulled out the box with the wild wand. He sensed the magic around him shift as he opened it to reveal the wand inside.

"What was that?" Draco asked, clearly getting something of the same feeling Harry experienced.

"There is wild magic in everything here," Harry said, "like knows like."

They were here for only one reason; they needed a site for the ritual to bring Sirius back. It couldn't be in the school and it had to be far enough away so that there was no chance of anyone interrupting them or coming into danger by contact with the unpredictable magic they would be channelling. Harry focused on the wand, holding it lightly in his hand, and, at a fundamental level, asked its advice.

The wand twitched in his hand, pulling his arm towards the right. It wasn't exactly a point me spell, but it had the same net effect.

"This way," he said and set off with Draco close behind.

As they walked he took no notice of where they were going, only what the wand was telling him. He knew Draco would be marking the way and he had total faith in his soulmate to get them back out once they had found what they needed.

They had been walking a seemingly random path in the forest for about ten minutes when Harry stepped into a perfectly round clearing. It had been cloudy and dark when they had entered the forest, but, almost as if the universe was making a point, the clearing was lit by bright moonlight. Everything was vaguely silver under the moon and it gave the whole place an ethereal quality to it.

"This is ... unexpected," Draco said.

There were no fallen trees to explain the break in the dense forest, nothing that could give an obvious explanation as to why this particular place was open to the sky. The floor of the clearing was even grass and a few tight closed flowers, more like a meadow than a forest clearing.

"Someone made this," Draco said as they walked further into the open space.

"Must have," Harry agreed.

As if that was all that was needed, Harry felt something that was very similar to Wizarding magic, but had an alien edge to it. He turned to find he and Draco were no longer alone. There at the edge of the trees was a centaur that Harry had never seen before.

Of course it would have been centaurs that had made the clearing; it gave them a view of the stars.

Harry immediately lowered the wild wand; the last thing he wanted was conflict with the centaurs. After the debacle of everything that had happened during Harry's fifth year, the Ministry had backed down somewhat and there was once again a tentative peace between the centaurs and wizards, but it was very much not stable.

"Many of our number saw of your coming," the centaur said and Harry was pretty sure they didn't just mean tonight.

"We are honoured to have been seen," Harry replied.

"No wizard has been allowed to find this place before you," the centaur said.

Harry had always known the centaurs had secrets, but he wasn't sure he wanted to know how they kept wizards from finding something as large as the clearing.

"No others shall hear of it from us," Draco said with a slight bow.

Of course Draco knew what to say and the centaur bowed his head back.

"As the stars predict," the centaur said and turned to leave.

"Do the stars say if we will succeed?" Harry found himself asking before he could stop himself.

The centaur turned his head back and said nothing for a long few seconds.

"The stars say many things," was all he said and then moved off into the darkness.

[Guess we found the right place then,] Harry said and tried to bring his heartbeat back to normal.

* * *

It was finally Halloween and the light from Draco's wand filled the clearing with cold clarity and although they were only inside the Forbidden Forest they could have been in the middle of nowhere as far as familiarity went. Harry looked around and even though he had been here several times over the last couple of days the ritual site looked alien to him. It rather suited his purpose since what he and Draco were about the attempt was completely at odds with just about all the magical theory they had ever been taught.

The matrix stone felt heavy in his arms as he carried it and placed it in the centre of the circle. There were eight other stones around the outside of the circle, carefully aligned with the points of the compass, although they were completely inert. As he put the bag he was carrying down, Draco moved from each of the outside stones to the next, placing a large white candle on top of it.

He slipped off his cloak, revealing the white robe he was wearing underneath. It barely kept out the Autumn chill, but he had far more other things to worry about other than the cold. His cloak had been exposed to far too much magic in its time, so he placed it a little way from the matrix stone. He wanted no stray traced to affect the ritual.

Next he pulled the bowl, the wild wand and the knife from the bag, placing the bag flat on the grass next to the matrix stone and the utensils on top of it. As he did so the moon came out from behind the clouds, filling the circle with light. His robe almost seemed to glow with it.

[A good omen,] Draco said.

[You don't believe in omens,] Harry pointed out.

[Tonight I think I believe in a lot of things,] and with those ominous words, Draco shrugged off his hood and cloak as well.

Harry thought he might be looking at a Sidhe, the way Draco's hair shone in the moonlight. He decided he might believe in a lot of things too.

[Come on,] he decided, [let's get on with it.]

Draco didn't reply, but walked over to him anyway. Their first job was to cast a protective circle. The wild magic would come, of that there was no doubt, and Harry needed to be in control of when it reached him. That at least was well known magic.

[You're sure you're ready?] Draco asked, looking him in the eye.

Harry nodded. He had been ready for days.

[Are you?]

[Yes.] Draco's voice was as resolute as Harry felt.

Pulling his wand from his sleeve, Harry held it tightly and lifted both his hands. Draco mirrored him, pale fingers winding around Harry's wand hand as Harry followed suit. Protective circles were ancient magic, used for generations, although they had fallen out of favour in recent centuries. The one they had chosen was a spell native to the area in local Gaelic.

It was a chant rather than a singular charm and the words were rather beautiful even translated into English:

Praise to the air, may the wind lend its strength.
Praise to the earth, may the soil lend its bounty.
Praise to the moon, may she give us her power.
Praise to the night, protect us from all.

Together, Harry and Draco spoke the original Gaelic, calling on the protection of their surrounding and funnelling their own magic into the spell. As they finished the last word all the candles flared into life and mist flowed out the end of both their wands. It floated to the ground, settling in a layer all through the circle, except the very centre.

There was a completely clear space all around the matrix stone, as if the mist dare not approach it. Where the magical fog touched the edges of the circle, it glittered as if held in by a sparkling vessel. The mist brought with it a strange calm that settled over Harry as completely as the white layer settled over the ground. It was almost as if everything was now inevitable, so there was no point in worrying about it.

[Now Sirius,] Draco said.

Harry nodded. Primrose had given him this technique. As with many things about their kind, it was more to do with will than anything concrete. Harry slipped his wand back into its hiding place, closed his eyes and concentrated.

"Sirius," he whispered under his breath and put everything he had into calling out to his godfather.

There was a connection between them and Primrose had shown him how to find it. She had only ever used the technique on a separate person, but it worked the same way when it was himself involved. It might even have been easier, but Harry didn't care about the detail. He put every iota of want and need he had and focused it on Sirius. It worked surprisingly quickly, the discomfort started almost immediately.

However, Harry refused to let up. He needed to be sure and he didn't stop for a second, even as the universe screamed at him. No one could feel what he was feeling and not know something was very wrong.

"Harry?"

He finally opened his eyes as he heard Sirius' familiar voice. Now came the hard part.

* * *

"Harry," Sirius said again, scanning the clearing, "what's going on."

"We're bringing you back," Harry told him.

"What?"

Sirius took a longer look at the circle this time.

"We're bringing you back," Draco repeated so Harry didn't have to.

"But I'm dead," Sirius pointed out.

"No you're not," Harry replied, "at least not exactly."

"Enough to count. Bringing back the dead is impossible, there's no magic strong enough, what you get isn't what you had before."

"Wild magic is."

Sirius' mouth dropped open and his eyes widened.

"You're not thinking..?"

"We're more than thinking," Harry said.

"Wild magic is lethal."

"Not when used correctly."

Sirius walked quickly across the clearing so they were no more than two feet apart.

"Harry, you mustn't do this," Sirius pleaded, "I'm not worth it."

Harry bent down and picked up the small bowl, the knife and the wild wand, placing them on the matrix stone before turning back to his godfather. Sirius really did look desperate, face twisted with worry and genuine fear, but Harry shook his head slowly.

"Draco, stop him," Sirius sent his request to Draco this time and Harry looked at his lover knowingly.

Draco's eyes were grave and his expression was anxious as were his thoughts, but he made no move to stop his soulmate. They had decided on this together, and Harry could feel the same resolve in his lover as there was in him.

"It's not just for you," Draco said and walked over to beside Harry.

"Every time I see you, Sirius, I know that it is wrong," Harry said, trying to explain what he knew to his godfather. "The universe is screaming that you should not exist as you do. Whatever magic created the Veil in the Ministry, it is wrong at a fundamental level. Because of how you fell through it did something to you that is not death. The only way to right that wrong is to bring you back."

The expression on Sirius' face was forlorn, his fear almost tangible.

"It could kill you, Harry," his godfather said almost reaching out to touch and only pulling back at the last moment. "You're playing with wild magic, it could destroy you."

"I am wild magic," Harry replied simply with the same calm he had felt since the moment he created the circle.

"Harry please," Sirius said desperately.

Ignoring his godfather's protests, Harry knelt down in front of the small block of stone. Draco moved up behind him and placed a hand on each of his shoulders, lending his strength wordlessly. Harry knew what he had to do; the scribbled instructions and his own notes were clear in his memory.

He reached for the knife, but it moved and fell onto the ground. Harry looked round at his godfather and the man had the extreme look of concentration on his face that meant he was trying to effect his surroundings. An abstract feeling of guilt tried to make it to the front of Harry's thoughts as he realised quite how desperate Sirius was to stop this, but it failed to upset his equilibrium.

"You can't stop me," he told his godfather calmly, "please don't try."

The concentration dissolved from Sirius' face and was replaced by a frown and expression of resigned fear.

"I love you, Harry," his godfather said quietly, "I don't want you to do this, please stop."

"I can't," Harry said, "it has already started."

Chapter Text

The moment Harry had placed wild wand on the matrix stone it had initiated the ritual. Turning back to the stone now, he picked up the silver knife from the ground and brought his wrist over the bowl on the surface. The blade was very sharp and all Harry had to do was touch it to his arm for blood to begin to flow.

It hurt as the knife cut into his flesh, but Harry was distant from it, almost as if it was not really his arm that he was slicing. His life's blood dripped from the wound in a steady stream as he watched it slowly fill the small bowl in a detached almost serene manner.

Only as blood eventually dripped over the edge of the tiny vessel did Harry raise his arm. Draco took hold of his wrist and slowly brought his head down until his lips closed over the wound. Draco drank deeply and his mental presence felt intoxicated as Harry pushed his own magic through the channel of blood between them.

It was then that the sea of calm on which Harry's thoughts had been floating began to gather a storm. His heartbeat increased and excitement curled in the bottom of his stomach making him feel empty inside.

"Two are one," Harry whispered to the night as his head swam, "one is two."

Draco only let go of his arm reluctantly and when Harry looked up at his soulmate, Draco's eye were shining. The normally grey irises were sparkling with metallic facets and the whites were deep red. Blood had dribbled from the corner of his mouth over Draco's pale chin and down onto his white robe. His lover was beautiful and eerie in the white light of the moon.

"It is time," Draco said quietly, "I see with your eyes: it is coming."

Harry did not hesitate, he turned back to the stone in front of him and he dropped all his barriers. Adrenaline flooded his system as the thrill of what he was doing pushed away all other emotions. Draco's hands fixed back onto his shoulders and Harry picked up the wild wand from the stone and called to the magic of the circle.

The wand sent power off in four directions causing the circle to flare brightly, throwing silver to the sky and then the wild magic Harry had summoned by spilling his blood on the stone crashed into the barrier. This magic was cold and powerful and ancient and it swirled in hundreds of different hues as it beat against the power keeping it out.

Harry heard the exclamation from his godfather and turned to see Sirius unconsciously backing towards the edge of the circle. Without thinking Harry threw out his hand and Sirius froze before he could reach the barrier. There was no time to worry about what he had done or how he had done it; he had more important things to think about.

Letting his mind feel it Harry explored the power surrounding them with his thoughts. He found its currents and its eddies letting it dance around his senses, trying to understand it. This was true magic, uncorrupted by the will of man. It was dangerous.

This magic did not want to be harnessed, it did not want to be used, but it did not flee from his touch. The wild magic he had used with his wand was a mere reflection of the power that he felt throwing itself against the wards of the circle. It was an incredible feeling to be in the presence of such energy.

Harry found himself drawn to the power, sucked in by the energy and intoxicated by the sheer magnitude of the magic around him. It called to him and he wanted it; he wanted it badly. However, this was not a power that could be forced, it was a power that had to be coaxed, and Harry knew that it required something of him first.

Closing his eyes he tried to calm his thoughts and prepare his mind knowing that to do this he had to be completely focused on his task. The wild magic wanted to come to him and he was drawn to it as much as it to him. Harry knew if he was not careful he could easily lose himself.

Taking one last centring breath, he smashed the wild wand against the matrix stone and drained the power from the circle. The protective wizard's magic fell away and the ancient forces it had been keeping at bay swooped down on him. The sheer energy that hit Harry should have vaporised him, but where it touched his skin it snaked inside. It was beyond pain, beyond pleasure and it threatened to take away his mind. It took every ounce of will he had and Draco's indomitable strength, not to just let the power take him.

"Please," he begged, bearing his soul and what needed to be done, to the thing that had invaded him, "this must be made right."

There was no way he could force the wild magic to do his bidding, all he could do was ask. It did not have a mind as a human being would think of a mind, but it was aware and Harry showed it the wrong that had been done. In no more than a heartbeat he offered it himself as a tool and showed it his lifeblood sitting in the little bowl; then he surrendered completely.

Harry's eyes opened, but it was not he who had forced his muscles to move. It felt wonderful and horrific at the same time and drew conflict from deep within his mind. He was a passenger in his own body as he looked down at the stone and brought his hands either side of it. He watched fascinated as the magic burning in his cells erupted from his fingers and engulfed the small block and everything that was on it, spitting and jumping as if it was truly alive.

The power continued to pour out of him swirling and obscuring the stone he had prepared so carefully over the previous week. The wild thing that had control of his body was enjoying the physical sensations that the magic caused in his flesh and it was playing. Pain and then pleasure ripped through him in alternating waves as it tested him and revelled in his surrender. When Draco screamed Harry did not know if he could go on. He wanted it to finish, to end the cycle which threatened to drive him out of his mind and take his soulmate with him, but it was too late; Harry had already opened himself, there was nothing he could do now.

Then the game was over, as suddenly as it had begun the teasing stopped.

Harry felt Draco collapse against his back. His soulmate was clinging to him as if their lives depended on it. It probably did; Draco's presence was all that kept Harry's awareness from spiralling away from reality.

The magic flared around the stone, blinding his sensitive vision and then it disappeared into the rough surface. For a moment it vanished from his sight and he was confused, left stunned by the sudden lack of stimulation before it leapt out again straight at his chest causing the air in his lungs to be expelled in a mad rush.

The power began flowing through him as if he was a conduit; out of his fingers, into the block, and then back into his body, changing subtly at each pass. Harry knew if it hadn't been for the controlling magic in his body he wouldn't even have had the strength to breathe.

The wild untamed energy was forming into something more controlled and with every trip through the power matrix Harry had created in the stone it gained purpose. It passed through him so many times that he lost track of the number and he fell into a kind of hypnotised stupor. His body was acting without his volition and in protection his mind ceased to function normally, slowing down thought and leeching out emotion once again. Draco's presence felt stunned and barely aware drifting alongside Harry's with no will.

When the cycle changed it almost caught Harry by surprise. He heard a grunt escape from his taxed body as the influx of energy to his chest stopped while the power continued to feed into the stone from his hands. His mind began to wake up again and with it came a vague fear.

He felt mostly numb in a physical and emotional sense, almost unable to comprehend what was happening. When the magic had disappeared completely, Harry watched his limbs move up above the block without trying to understand what was going on. They stopped, hovering closer together over the tiny bowl of blood, poised, waiting for whatever was about to happen.

When the eruption came Harry knew if he had been in control of his muscles he would have reared back as shock made his heart pound and his eyes water. Power exploded upwards from the stone through the bowl, shattering it and taking the liquid up high as the magic literally absorbed Harry's lifeblood. He felt it like a connection made in an electric circuit as the ancient power accepted the part of himself he had given for it to keep forever. His palms turned upwards and he felt his own innate magic forced out of him as the elemental power controlling him used it to bring order to the swirling metallic red mass that was now suspended above him.

Ever so slowly the cloud began to change shape and it formed into a large oval, crisscrossed by a network of thin red lines. Harry felt himself stand, somehow dragging Draco with him. He turned, arms outstretched to where Sirius was standing a few feet away. His godfather was still frozen; Harry's power keeping him rooted to the spot. Sirius' expression was one of awe and horror.

It filled Harry with disgust at himself as he realised the fear he had caused. This was his fault and there was nothing he could do to change it now. He knew this had to be done, knew that the universe had been wronged and it needed to be set right, but he was suddenly very afraid.

His body, however, was not concerned with his mind. He felt himself move his hands in a strangely formal gesture and the final touch was completed. The floating matrix moved towards Sirius at speed, coming down to ground level, turning on end and then flying straight at his rigid godfather.

It only slowed when it touched Sirius and Harry could not look away as the red crisscross of power wrapped itself around his godfather like a net, even as the outer ring continued its journey. Then with almost agonising slowness the taught magic began to disappear through Sirius.

It was then that Sirius regained his power of movement and screamed. With the image of his godfather ingrained on his mind, Harry felt all power and strength leave him. His arms dropped, his body sagged and he began to fall. If he could he would have said something, done something, but he was robbed of all of that as he lost the ability to think completely.

* * *

There was something important trying to force Draco to wakefulness: something that would not let him float in the blissful blackness that required no thought. When he considered consciousness his thoughts filled with pain and he shied away, but eventually the something trying to hold his attention won through.

Draco opened his eyes slowly and decided that everything hurt; there was not a single cell in his body that was not complaining. The microsecond after he realised this he remembered where he was and what Harry had been doing. Harry: that was the important something that had caused him to wake up. It took him a good thirty seconds to summon up enough strength and coordination to move and then he pushed himself shakily off the ground on which he was lying face down.

Every cell was no longer simply complaining it was rebelling and Draco fought down the urge to be violently sick. He hurt; he hurt almost as much as he had felt Harry hurting during the ceremony, but he was not going to let that stop him reaching his soulmate.

Harry's presence was still firmly in his mind, but Draco could tell that his lover was deeply unconscious and weak. Nothing would have stopped him reaching Harry. Looking around he realised he had awoken a good ten feet from where he last remembered being and Harry was slumped next to the matrix stone in his now bloodstained white robe. Half walking, half crawling, Draco made his way back to his soulmate as fast as he could.

When he touched him the Draco could feel the residual energy from the ceremony running through the prone Hecatemus and Harry made no indication that he knew Draco was there. Harry's face was pale to the point of almost being grey and his breathing was ragged. The wrist cut during the ceremony still oozed blood from the congealing wound and Draco reached for his wand without thinking. Only as he tried to remember the charm for healing cuts did he realise he could not think of it. His mind was so confused that he could not even put together the words of a simple spell. Draco almost lost it at that point.

The event that stopped him was a hand settling on his shoulder. He turned in desperation and looked into the eyes of Sirius Black. Harry's godfather looked different: that was the first fact that made it into Draco's thoughts, past the desire to loose his mind. Black looked somehow younger or possibly just less haggard and the semi-wild look that Draco was used to appeared to have left Sirius; except for his eyes. Draco would have been shocked, or pleased, or something if he had had enough brainpower left to do anything but accept everything and keep going.

"Let me," the older man said in a voice that sounded calm and sure.

Draco let his lover's godfather take over gratefully, somehow not surprised to see Sirius pull a wand from his clothes. The dark haired man sealed the wound on Harry's wrist with a whispered charm and then looked back at Draco.

"We need to get Harry to help," Sirius said evenly, "can you walk?"

"I can if I have to," he replied even though his body cried out in protest at the very idea.

Harry's godfather nodded at him as if he understood perfectly and then Sirius did something that surprised Draco completely; which was an achievement given his current mental state. Sirius moved round the other side of his godson, shifted his arms under the unconscious Hecatemus and lifted Harry off the ground. Harry was not a child, he was almost a full-grown man, and the strength it must have taken to lift him did not escape Draco. There was strain on Sirius' face, but also a cold determination that Draco did not question. Using the now inert matrix stone Draco pushed himself to his feet with a similar use of pure will power.

"Let's go," he said quietly.

It was the hardest walk of Draco's entire life. Every muscle hurt, every bone ached and half the time he could barely tell which way was up, let alone which way he was supposed to be going. Then of course there was Harry; barely breathing and closed off from him in unconsciousness. It was almost too much for Draco, but being an obstinate bastard helped a little. By the time they reached the castle he was hanging on to Sirius and stumbling over every step. If it hadn't been for Harry's godfather Draco knew he would still have been in the forest, probably face down, and encircled by wolves.

The effort it was taking for Sirius to keep them going was also showing on the older man; Sirius was physically shaking and he missed a step or two, but Harry's godfather was refusing to give up. Draco was not sure what dying and then being brought back could do to a psyche, but he suspected it was even worse than twelve years in Azkaban, and it had definitely given Sirius an edge. Draco, however, did not have the energy to be more than vaguely impressed.

It was Halloween, the school was deserted as everyone feasted in the main hall and that was where they were going. Draco had given up trying to figure out which direction to walk in and was half following and half being dragged by Sirius. He only knew that they were nearing the hall because he could hear the noise coming from inside. The doors were open and the cheerful voices raised in celebration spilled into the hallway.

Sirius did not pause as they reached the entrance, he walked straight through and only inside did he stop. It seemed to Draco that it was as if walking into the Great Hall turned off a power switch in the man and he felt the tremors in Sirius' body increase. What he assumed was a first year screamed and then total silence engulfed the hall as Draco looked around trying to make out anything in the blur that his eyesight was showing him. As he stared stupidly Sirius finally succumbed to the strain he was under and fell to his knees.

"Someone help, please," the man said in a voice that no longer held the strength and certainty Draco had heard before.

Then, still holding Harry in his arms Sirius toppled over sideways and lay on the floor unmoving. Draco just stood there, wobbling on his feet looking at his two fallen comrades. He heard some whispers and some movement, but they didn't really mean much to him; he knew his mind was shutting down.

"Everyone remain calm," Dumbledore's voice was strong and even as it rang through the hall. "Stay in your seats the staff with deal with this."

Draco looked up at the tones of the headmaster and he saw a tall, black, blurry shape coming towards him down the side of the hall. There were other shapes moving towards Harry and Sirius and the fact that they were all somewhere safe made it into his confused brain. It was all his mind needed to close off the final shred of whatever will power he had been functioning with and he felt himself caught by strong, wiry arms as he too gave up on the vertical. The smell of potions made it into his nose and then Draco passed out.

Chapter Text

Harry was pretty sure there was something off going on, but he couldn't seem to figure out what it was. He was sitting at a long dining table that was covered in a pristine white cloth and the most glorious feast. Draco was opposite him and they were at the middle of the table. On his right at one end of the table was Dumbledore and on his left at the other was Voldemort.

They were both looking at the food, but neither of them was touching it.

Looking down, Harry realised there was an ornate place setting in front of him with at least twenty pieces of cutlery, some of which he had never seen before. There were knives and forks and spoons and other things, but of different shapes and sizes. It was all very grand.

"Why don't you start, Harry?" Dumbledore asked with a smile.

"Um," Harry said staring at all the knives and forks. [Draco, which one am I supposed to use?]

[It's up to you, Love,] Draco told him with a dreamy smile.

[But I don't know what some of these are for.]

[I'm sure you'll choose correctly.]

"Come, Harry," Voldemort said in his sibilant voice, "we really must start."

"But..."

"Yes, My Dear Boy," Dumbledore added, "we can't keep everyone waiting."

Harry looked between them, trying to figure out what to do. The headmaster continued to smile at him, twinkling all the while, and Voldemort smirked in a superior manner. Harry could almost see the original Tom Riddle under all the changes the wizard had been through.

[Draco,] Harry tried again, [what should I do?]

[I can't make that decision for you, Love,] Draco replied. [I'll always be with you, but you have to choose.]

[What are we supposed to eat first?]

[Whatever you choose?]

[But what if I choose wrong?]

[It'll be embarrassing.]

Somewhere at the back of Harry's mind he thought it might be more than that.

[So help me.]

[I am.]

Desperately Harry looked towards Dumbledore.

"What should I do?"

"Choose," the headmaster said as the bread in the basket in front of him began turning into sweets.

A feeling of dread started to swirl in Harry's stomach; he didn't know where to start. He turned to the other end of the table to see what Voldemort was doing. He was still smirking and the bowl of fruit near him was beginning to turn black.

"You should try the wine, Harry," Voldemort said.

Harry reached for his goblet desperate for something to do, but when he picked it up, the contents bubbled and swirled. Drinking would give him something to do he understood, but there was something wrong with the wine. With shaking hands he placed it back on the table.

"Desert is always nice," Dumbledore said, "it's waiting on the table behind you. We won't mind if you want to start there."

Turning, Harry realised that there was indeed a table behind him and it was stacked with all sort of sweet treats. All of his favourites were there.

"What about you?" he asked.

"Oh, we have to stay at this table," Dumbledore said, still smiling, "but Draco can come with you."

[Do you want dessert?] Harry asked his soulmate.

[If you do,] was the unhelpful response.

A horrible smell made him look back to Voldemort's end of the table. The fruit was putrid and decaying and the meat on the next platter had begun to change colour as well.

"Why don't you join me at this end of the table," Voldemort invited, "I can make everything good again."

The Dark Lord waved his hand and everything at his end of the table returned to how it had been, only Harry could still smell the rotten fruit.

"That's just an illusion," he said.

"And what's wrong with that?" Voldemort asked.

It was a game, Harry was sure it was a game and he didn't understand the rules.

He looked at all the cutlery and all the food, then at Dumbledore and Voldemort. Everything felt wrong. He couldn't do this; this wasn't something he knew how to do. His chair made an ugly scraping sound on the floor as he pushed it back.

Something had to be done; he knew that, even as Draco mirrored his actions on the other side of the table. He couldn't just sit there, but he couldn't start the meal like they wanted him to either. The cutlery was too unfamiliar, he would fumble it, he was sure, and embarrassing Draco would be the worst thing ever.

They said it was his choice, so he made it. He pulled out his wand and he aimed it at the table. The only way he could make this work was if he changed the rules.

With one swirl of his wand he lifted all the cutlery from his place setting off the table and brought it together. It warped and twisted and melted into one big mass of metal that slowly flowed into a huge knife. It glinted in the light as it lowered back to the table.

Harry picked it up and the handle felt solid in his hand.

"Very nice, Harry," Voldemort said, "but how do you plan to use that."

When Harry looked back at his enemy this time there were Death Eaters standing between him and Voldemort. Somehow Voldemort's chair had been pushed back from the table without Harry noticing and his followers were ringing him completely.

Harry looked at the knife, then at the Death Eaters. He didn't know what to do, but he was sure he was running out of time and he had to figure it out.

* * *

"They have moved," Harry heard a voice as his brain retreated from dreams and spiralled for consciousness.

His peculiar mind informed him that he was unshielded and there were at least two people standing no more than a few feet away.

He felt Draco react to the stimulus of his soulmate being in discomfort and they both opened their eyes at the same time. Harry realised he was lying on his side facing his lover with one arm thrown over Draco's chest. Draco was lying on his back and as his eyelids fluttered fully open he turned to meet Harry's gaze. Almost before either of them could think of anything else instinct kicked in and Draco's presence intensified in Harry's mind as he rebuilt the barriers that were currently non-existent in his head.

Only when this was complete did either of them look to see where they were and who was with them. Harry recognised the familiar surroundings of the warded room in the hospital wing instantly and the surprised, if slightly blurred, features of Hilde and Madam Pomfrey were not much harder to distinguish.

The brain was a wonderful thing; protecting itself from too much stimulation at the same time, and so it was that only after he had registered this fact did he remember why he was here.

"Sirius," Harry said very rapidly and sat up when the last image he had seen of his godfather being dissected by the wild magic filled his mind's eye.

Sitting up was a mistake and sitting up fast was an even bigger one. The room span, Harry's tentative grasp on consciousness flicked out for a second and when it came back he felt very, very nauseous.

"He's going to be sick," it was Madam Pomfrey's voice and the school nurse was by his side in a second, pushing a bowl under his nose.

He had no choice but to give in to the impulses of his body as his intestines tried to turn inside out. It was not pleasant trying to throw up when your stomach was in fact empty and the mixture of bile and stomach juices which he heaved into the bowl was uncomfortable. His throat burned and he coughed painfully.

"Take it slowly, Mr Potter," Madam Pomfrey's calm tones informed him kindly. "You have been lying down for a long time and you will need to adjust."

Draco's hand rubbing his back helped sooth the burning and prevented a repeat performance, but it didn't help Harry's need to know.

[He carried you back to school,] his soulmate's inner voice said knowing what he needed. [Last time I saw him he was whole and alive.]

Draco felt as weak and as confused as Harry did, but his words were like salve to an open wound. It was not everything Harry needed to know, but it calmed the panic that had threatened to send him right back into the darkness from which he had just escaped.

"Harry's shields are in place," Harry heard Draco say and then Madam Pomfrey was helping him sit back against the pillows.

The nurse fussed over him for a moment and his soulmate relaxed back onto the headboard next to him, but Harry could not contain himself for long.

"Sirius?" he croaked, drawing another cough from his uncooperative lungs.

Madam Pomfrey tutted and handed him the glass from the bedside table.

"Drink this slowly," she said and crossed her arms when he just looked at her. "Oh really," she continued disapprovingly, "your godfather is fine, incredibly well in fact for a man who has been dead for years. You will be able to see him as soon as I say you are well enough."

Harry took a sip of water as the woman glared at him sternly. He could not begin to describe the happiness that bubbled up from within him. Even the fact that Madam Pomfrey had put something foul tasting in the water could only keep the smile from his face for a fraction of a second.

[You did it,] Draco's tired voice said with pride and pleasure.

[We did it,] Harry replied and took another sip of the awful tasting liquid.

Neither Madam Pomfrey nor Hilde would tell them anything; it was like asking questions of a Muggle brick wall. Harry tried asking things and then Draco tried and all the women would do was avoid the whole thing, ask a question of their own or dose the pair with something else. If Harry hadn't been quite so tired he would have been relatively annoyed.

Both healer and Hecatemae expert threw a whole set of enquiries at Harry and Draco about how they were feeling, if they were experiencing any discomfort or side effects etc. etc. Even though he was frustrated that they gave no answers to any of his questions Harry responded to the women's enquiries calmly; he had long since learned that putting yourself on the wrong side of Poppy Pomfrey was a bad idea.

At some point during the inquisition Draco put his head on Harry shoulder and went back to sleep propped up by the pillows the school nurse had stacked around the pair. Harry was reminded of china dolls wrapped in cotton wool, but he didn't voice this opinion, that also would have been a bad idea. Not one to give up, he tried to rephrase some of the things he wanted to know and asked again, but he would have had more luck trying to talk to a blast-end Skrewt.

* * *

In the end Harry didn't actually remember when he fell asleep, all he knew was that he woke up to the smell of hot food. Madam Pomfrey was once again by the bedside and she was just putting down a large tray that held two steaming bowls. She looked at Harry thoughtfully as he blinked up at her and then the woman handed him his glasses.

"You need to rebuild your strength," the healer said pleasantly, "you should both eat. There are many people who would like to see you and once I am convinced you can both act in a sensible manner I will allow them in. Any repeat performances of this morning, Mr Potter, and I will keep them out until tomorrow. Is that understood?"

Harry nodded gravely: he was under no illusions as to who was in charge. Under Madam Pomfrey's watchful gaze he gently shook his lover's shoulder.

"Draco," he said tenderly, "time to wake up."

Grey eyes opened and peered up at him blearily.

[Food,] Harry said cheerfully.

That woke his soulmate up a bit more and when Draco pushed himself into a more upright position he looked and felt stronger than last time. Whatever potions Madam Pomfrey had fed them appeared to be working.

"Oh good," Draco said eagerly, "I'm starving."

The meal was some kind of stew and it tasted wonderful, however, Harry realised very quickly that what his mind thought he could eat and what his stomach could actually hold were two entirely different things. He managed to make it through about half of the bowl Madam Pomfrey gave him before he could not eat another mouthful. Putting his spoon back in the vessel, he glanced over to see that Draco was having a similar problem. He could not help but wonder how long they had been unconscious this time.

"Hmm," the school nurse said speculatively as both Harry and Draco looked up at her with their half empty bowls, "I suppose that will have to do."

Harry felt like a naughty schoolboy held back at playtime because he hadn't cleaned his plate; it was quite embarrassing. He was eighteen years old and yet under Madam Pomfrey's watchful eye he felt about five.

[I think I preferred it when they left us in here on our own,] he commented to his lover.

[Tell me about it,] Draco replied silently, [if she insists on holding my hand to the bathroom I am leaving even if I have to crawl.]

[I'll be right behind you,] Harry promised, but smiled politely as he handed the bowl back to the nurse.

"Now, gentlemen," Madam Pomfrey said firmly, "you may get out of bed if you wish, but you may not leave this room. You are both very weak and I will not have you wandering the halls. There is half an hour before the end of the normal school day, at which point I expect there will be a queue of visitors crowding up my hospital wing. I suggest you rest and relax; you are going to need all the strength you can muster if what I have had to put up with since you arrived is anything to go by."

Her tone was stern, but there was a smile playing at her lips. Harry and Draco nodded at her: they both knew what was good for them.

"Thank you," Harry said sincerely, "I don't know what we'd do without you."

"Probably draw a halt to life as we know it, Mr Potter," Madam Pomfrey said, "or something worse."

Harry smiled at her as she picked up the tray she had brought in and then efficiently removed herself from the room. The two soulmates looked at each other and Harry knew they were thinking the same thing.

"Bathroom," they voiced their opinion at the same time.

Being up to sitting in bed eating was not quite the same as having the strength to wander across the room in a carefree manner, as Harry and Draco found out very quickly. Legs that had been unused for some time did not like being put under any strain and Harry found himself leaning on Draco and his soulmate leaning on him in the same manner to make it to the bathroom. It could have been incredibly annoying, but Harry was in far too buoyant a mood to let it get him down. When they veered off course and he ended up clinging to the doorframe, he giggled.

[I've said it before and I'll say it again,] Draco commented as he reached for the other side of the door, [you have a strange sense of humour, Potter.]

[I don't know,] he replied as they ungracefully made it through the bathroom doorway, [two grown men staggering around like toddlers, I think it's pretty funny.]

His soulmate gave him a dirty look and steadied himself on the sink.

"Half-bloods," he commented aloud.

It took them another twenty minutes to use the bathroom and then head back to the bed. Harry did not think there was any danger of him breaking the rules and wandering the halls any time soon. A snigger escaped him as he lay on the bed where he had just collapsed after the walk back from the other room.

[What's so funny this time?] Draco asked; he was obviously not enjoying anything about the partially helpless idea.

Harry shared the mental image of the pair of them staggering towards the teachers' wing in their pyjamas that had caused him to laugh. When he glanced over at his soulmate there was a small smile trying to force its way onto Draco's face.

"Have you started to enjoy public humiliation?" Draco asked with a shake of his head.

"Well when you've managed it as many times as I have you have to get used to it or crawl into a hole and disappear," Harry replied looking back at the ceiling. "Being warped is far easier, and it helps me cope with you as well."

His lover swiped at him half-heartedly, but the comment did draw a laugh. They had both sat on the bed and flopped backwards when they returned from the bathroom and hence they were lying side by side on the bed with their feet over the edge still on the floor. It was not the most comfortable position.

"Can you move or are we stuck like this until someone comes in and helps us?" Draco asked as neither of them shifted.

Harry moved his head to look over at where his soulmate was lying and tried to push himself off the bed. He almost made it onto his side before he fell back again.

"We're stuck," he said and then burst out laughing.

Chapter Text

No miraculous solution to their problem appeared to help. This had to be the most ridiculous predicament yet and after a few seconds Draco began chuckling as well. It took them a good few minutes to calm down and then a joint effort to turn them both over so they could crawl up onto the bed properly. That was enough to exhaust them both again and they remained where they ended up.

Harry was lying flat on his face on his side of the bed and Draco was half sitting, half lying on the pillows on his side when the knock sounded on the door.

"Come in," they said at the same time, but since Harry's face was buried in the covers, only Draco's voice made it to the person on the other side of the door.

Harry heard the entrance to the room open and the movement of robes, but he had no idea who had come in since, as yet, he didn't have eyes in the back of his head no matter what he told his students. He was not about to use any of his other abilities just yet either, not if he didn't have to. With a concerted effort, he pulled his arms under him and flipped onto his back. He came to rest with his head in Draco's lap just in time to see Dumbledore smile.

"Harry, Draco," the headmaster greeted and twinkled at them, "I do hope you don't mind me pulling rank to see you first."

"Hello, sir," Harry responded with a smile, falling back into old habits.

"Now, Harry," the old wizard said lightly, "I thought I had managed to convince you to call me Albus."

"He fried his brain, Albus," Draco replied before Harry could, "he can't help regressing."

The headmaster nodded, smiling some more before his face became serious. Harry recognised that look, he'd seen it enough over the years on varyingly different people.

"That was a very dangerous thing you did," Dumbledore said, fixing them each with his knowing gaze. "It could quite easily have been fatal to you both and then we would have had three dead members of the Order rather than one. Even my old and experienced mind boggles at the idea of what the pair of you set out to do."

"It wasn't just for..." Harry started to tell the headmaster his reasons, but the old wizard held up his hand.

"I know it was not just for Sirius, Harry," Dumbledore said firmly. "I am aware that you would risk your life for your godfather alone, but I know you would not have risked Draco's if that was your only reason. I do not begin to pretend to understand how either of you view the universe, but I wish you both to know that you scared a great many people, myself included."

The dutiful Gryffindor part of Harry felt incredibly guilty at that. He sensed a similar mirror in Draco, but there was quite a large section of him left that was still incredibly happy.

"That being said," the headmaster's tone changed completely as if he knew this, "I have to congratulate you both on your success. I believe at last count there were twelve of the greatest minds of our age trying to work out how you wielded such power, Harry."

"I didn't," he found himself admitting straight away, "I asked it to help; it did the rest."

The most peculiar expression appeared on Dumbledore's face, one which Harry had never seen there before, it took him several seconds to work out what it was.

[You have rendered the unflappable, Professor Albus Dumbledore, speechless,] Draco said silently as Harry came to the same conclusion. [I can hear the four horsemen approaching now.]

"Remarkable," was the word that finally passed the headmaster's lips.

"Wait until you hear his theories that magic originally joined with humans because it wanted to," Draco added.

"I was only hypothesising," Harry said and was very pleased that he managed such a complex word in his current state.

"With you, My Dear Boy," Dumbledore said, "I have come to learn that one should never ignore what you have to say, be it an offhand comment or a long thought out argument."

It was Harry's turn to be astonished; he had never expected the headmaster to ever say anything like that to him.

"I totally agree," Draco said.

[Stop it,] Harry complained, he was beginning to feel very self-conscious.

"Quite," Dumbledore said with a twinkling smile, "but I think perhaps it may be in everyone's best interests to leave such ground breaking theories for once the establishment has come to terms with your current achievement."

"No argument from me," Harry agreed.

"One mind blowing revelation at a time," Draco said and Harry could feel his soulmate's gentle amusement at the whole situation.

Harry would have been amused too, but he knew it was going to cause a whole lot more scrutiny he did not want, which rather deflated any humour.

He was beginning to feel tired again as his energy levels sagged, so he let himself relax as Draco and Dumbledore began to chat about lighter things. He put in the odd comment, but he knew if he pushed it he'd just have to wait longer to recover. No matter what anyone said, he did know how to pace himself when he had to.

"Well, gentlemen," Dumbledore finally said a while later, "there are many people who would like to see you. Poppy has declared that no more than four at a time may enter this room so I shall leave you and let the first group in. They have been waiting long enough for you to wake up, after all."

It was as the professor turned back to the door that Harry realised he had no idea how long they had been in here this time.

"How many days, Albus?" he asked quickly. "How long this time?"

Dumbledore turned back with a thoughtful expression on his face.

"Hmm," he said calmly, "let me see. Thirty six," the old wizard said slowly. "Today is the 5th of December."

[Over five weeks,] Draco's voice sounded incredulous, [we've been unconscious over five weeks.]

Harry had no answer to that.

"Sorry to have messed up the timetable for so long," he said, because it was about all he could think to say.

"Not to worry, Harry," the headmaster said, "everyone pulled together to step into the breach, and I believe most are completely sympathetic to your reasoning."

"I'm betting Professor Snape isn't," Harry replied.

"I will admit that Severus has been somewhat testy of late," Dumbledore agreed.

"Sirius hasn't been annoying him has he?"

If there was one thing that could be guaranteed it was that Sirius and Snape would never in a million years get on.

"I believe Remus has been keeping Sirius occupied," was the headmaster's response.

"Thank Merlin there is one Gryffindor with a sensible streak," Draco said. "Without Remus and Hermione I think your house might be without hope."

Harry didn't even bother to argue, he just grinned instead.

"We will have to find a way to make it up to everyone," Draco decided and Harry mentally agreed.

"I am sure that will be unnecessary," Dumbledore said, "but I am also sure you will do it anyway. I wish you a speedy recovery, Gentlemen, and I shall not keep you any longer."

"Thank you, Albus," Draco said and Harry nodded.

He was still trying to get his head around how long they had been asleep.

* * *

Harry let his thoughts rebel to their heart's content until the door opened again. The first head round the door was Ron who grinned at Harry when he waved.

"So the rumours are true, you finally deigned to join us again," his best friend said. "We were taking bets as to whether the pair of you would wake up before Christmas."

"Well, Weasley," Draco replied smoothly, "we were planning on hibernating, but what with you making so much racket there didn't seem much point in continuing."

Ron came through the door and was quickly followed by Hermione, but it was the third person who entered the room that made Harry's heart almost stop. He had been told, Draco had even shown him his memories, but when he actually laid eyes on his godfather Harry's world came to a grinding halt.

Sirius hovered just inside the door and Harry stared at him as Remus slipped through into the room behind him. Harry forgot to breathe.

[Harry love,] Draco's gentle voice broke into his frozen thoughts, [take a breath for me. Come on, in...]

Harry obeyed without question and found his lungs were aching.

[...out...]

It had to have been longer than the moment it had seemed.

"You okay, Harry?" Hermione asked in that concerned, caring way she had.

"Shock," Draco said quietly.

"Maybe I should..," Sirius began to say.

"Come in and sit down," Draco finished for him and, apparently, even hot headed Gryffindors knew when not to argue with certain Slytherins, because Sirius did just that.

It was enough of a contrast to kick-start Harry's brain for him properly.

"You're really alive," he said and tried desperately to sit up.

He wasn't a huggy person anymore, he couldn't be, but he really needed to touch his godfather. Luckily for him Sirius seemed to be on the same page and came forward immediately, dragging him up and wrapping him in a very brief, but very fierce hug. The wave of uncontrolled emotion that rolled over him from Sirius was overwhelming. His godfather was just as conflicted and grateful and confused as he was, it seemed. Perversely, that actually helped him stem the tide of the tears that had been prickling the back of his eyes.

So many emotions were fighting for dominance: joy, fear, love, anger. They all made rather a mess and absolutely no sense.

When Draco's arms repossessed him (and where Draco found the strength for that he had no idea) he was shaking, but he actually felt better.

"You okay?" he asked Sirius.

"Better than I have any right to be," Sirius replied.

Harry relaxed back against Draco because any strength he might have recuperated while Dumbledore had been in the room was gone. Everyone had to have helped, because there were pillows in place there definitely hadn't been before, but he had been too focused on Sirius to notice.

"How about you?" Sirius asked.

"Been better," Harry replied, "but getting there."

He kept feeling himself tensing on the inside as if part of him couldn't believe that Sirius was actually there and not still a ghost. It was going to take some time.

"And there we have two prime examples of the emotionally constipated modern male," Hermione commented and made Harry smile.

"So what have we missed?" Draco asked.

"Not much," Ron said at the same time Hermione said: "The Ministry are being idiots."

Three sets of eyes stared at Hermione as if she had said something terrible.

"We agreed," Sirius said in a very tight tone.

"You agreed," Hermione said, "but this is too important."

"What have they done?"

"Well first of all they tried to take Sirius back to Azkaban," Hermione said in a perfectly calm tone.

"They did what?" Harry sat up and suddenly he wasn't tired anymore.

The magic in the room shifted and he only just stopped it jumping at him.

"Hogwarts wouldn't let them," Hermione continued and cut off some of his righteous fury. "Albus says it doesn't have anything to do with him, but Sirius can't be taken off the grounds and I think Albus might have done something."

"I can leave voluntarily..." Sirius added.

"We tested it," Remus put in.

"...but, as you can imagine, I have chosen not to," Sirius finished.

"Instead the Ministry have set a date for a proper trial," Hermione explained.

"Good," Draco said and shocked Harry.

"What?" he didn't understand.

"Then we can finally put this business to bed for good and Sirius can sue the Ministry for wrongful imprisonment when we prove what idiotic morons they have been," Draco told him.

Harry hadn't thought of it like that.

"Exactly," Hermione agreed, "but we can talk about our strategy when you're feeling better. For now you've gone very pale, I think you should be lying down."

Harry would have protested, but mentioning it reminded his body he was running on only just above empty at the moment and he sagged. Ron helped him lie back down before he could fall off the bed. Guiltily he realised Draco was feeling completely wiped out as well. He had a suspicion he knew how he had managed the sitting up trick.

"So what do you have planned for next year then?" Ron said and completely changed the tone, "Last year you came out as soulmates, this year you raised the dead. We were thinking world peace and an end to hunger should about do for next Halloween."

Chapter Text

"Merlin save me from Gryffindors," Draco said in a very dramatic fashion as Pansy and Greg walked into the room.

"That may even be beyond the great man himself," was Pansy's comeback. "Given your behaviour I'm beginning to think it's too late for you anyway."

"A valid observation when you don't understand our motivation," Draco replied and smiled; it was always fun talking to Pansy.

"Care to explain?"

"Sirius Black was causing an anomaly in the fabric of the universe that could have resulted in anything from an explosion big enough to destroy a building to a reaction that would have ripped a hole in reality itself. We either had to resurrect him or kill him properly. Both were as unknown as each other, so we chose the more favourable outcome."

Pansy looked at him for a moment, her mouth slightly open. If she had been anything but a Slytherin, Draco was sure the words "you're kidding" or something equally as inane would have been falling from her lips.

"You may wish to explain that to Snape in the near future," she finally said; "he's been frantic."

"He made two second years cry," Greg added.

"That is worried," Draco agreed.

"How is making second years cry any different from his usual behaviour?" Harry asked.

"There are lines Snape does not usually cross, when you are not in the room that is," Pansy said. "He has made many a first year cry, but then that's a very easy thing to do even without trying, second years, however, not a usual occurrence."

"I'll have to take your word for it," Harry replied.

Pansy grinned at that. Draco couldn't help enjoying the ease with which all those he cared for interacted now.

"Hermione asked me to bring you these," Pansy said, walking over and depositing the pile of papers she was carrying on the bedside table next to Draco. "She didn't think the others would let her bring them in."

"What are they?" Draco asked, reaching out and taking the top one.

"All the information on the idiocy in the Ministry to do with Sirius Black," Pansy said and Draco moved the document he was holding so Harry could see it before Harry did anything stupid like try and sit up, "and various ideas we have been working on to put them in their place."

Draco quickly scanned the parchment in his hand. It was the details of the trial date and the charges Sirius had to answer.

"Bureaucrats to the last man and woman," Draco said, letting all his contempt coalesce in his tone.

"It will be a media spectacle, a waste of time and money, but at least once it's done they won't be able to try anything else," Pansy agreed.

"My thinking exactly," Draco said.

"But what if they fix the trial?" Harry finally voiced what Draco was sure had been bothering him since Hermione had revealed what was going on.

"We will make sure that can't happen," Draco promised.

"Fudge tried to have my wand broken because I saved my cousin from Dementors," was Harry's immediate comeback. "If I scared him, Sirius must positively terrify him."

"And Dumbledore has already made sure the imbecile can't play any ridiculous games," Pansy explained. "Fudge tried to move for a closed trial, but it will be in front of the whole Wizengamot."

"Relax," Draco said as he felt Harry starting to get worked up, "we've got this."

"Now that you're both awake, yes, we definitely have," Pansy agreed.

"I take it Fudge was insisting on the trial date even though Harry will be a key witness?" Draco checked.

"Of course," she replied.

"He'll wet himself when he finds out you woke up," Greg added in an apparently delighted tone.

Draco allowed himself some smug satisfaction at the thought.

"The problem will be making sure the court believe Harry and Sirius," he said as he went through the possibilities in his head. "It doesn't matter who else testifies if we can do that."

"What about Veritaserum?" Harry asked.

"They would just claim Sirius was resistant to it," Draco replied.

"And since it doesn't work on Hecatemae ..." Pansy added.

"It's doesn't?"

Draco felt the surprise coming from Harry.

"It works using the magical centres," Draco replied and added yet more to his list of things Harry still didn't know about himself, "and yours don't function like anyone else's, hence you are resistant to it."

"Oh," was all Harry said.

"There was a famous case involving Clementine Drowsy, a Hecatema from America," Pansy said. "It's admissible in court in some places over there. She failed all the test questions by lying outrageously."

"How do you know this and I don't?" Harry asked.

"Apparently she didn't want to be there and was quite vulgar," Draco explained. "It's one of those naughty stories children whisper and giggle about and embellish with every telling."

Pansy and Greg nodded in agreement.

[Wonder if the knowledge transfer works in the other direction,] Harry commented silently, [because I could really do with all this trivia.]

"When did this happen?" Harry asked out loud.

"Eighteen something or other," Greg said, "I remember that much."

"So is there anything else we could use that is allowed in court?" Harry asked.

"Not that I know of," Pansy replied with a shrug.

"We just have to make sure that all testimony is heard," Draco decided. "As long as Harry and Sirius get to give full statements they will be believed. It's legal games we have to guard against."

[They didn't believe me before,] Harry said.

[You're not a boy anymore,] Draco reassured him, [you're a man and you've proven yourself too many times. Fudge has failed and everyone knows that. What we have to watch out for is political games.]

Only a feeling came back and Draco knew Harry didn't like the uncertainty, but then he was a Gryffindor. The courts were a Slytherin playground.

"Tell us everything we need to know," Draco said simply and prepared to let Pansy do all the talking.

* * *

The next two days were full of eating, sleeping and visits from friends and family. It had been when Narcissa visited that Harry had felt the most guilt. Draco's mother hadn't stopping hugging Draco for five solid minutes. She had briefly hugged him too, but his shields were less than stellar at the moment, so that had been it.

Sirius had been in three times and each time Harry was struck by how much younger his godfather looked. This was not the man who had been stuck in Azkaban. It was as if dying had restored what imprisonment had stolen. Harry could see so many more reflections of the boy from his parents' photo album.

Each time Harry spoke to Sirius it just made him more determined to do everything to make sure the Ministry could do nothing against his godfather.

"Gentlemen," Madam Pomfrey said as they packed up what few things they had in the room to finally leave her domain, "I am allowing you to leave on one condition and one condition only. Neither of you are to attempt anything more strenuous than reading. You may not return to teaching, you may not travel, and you may not get any silly ideas about Quidditch, the Ministry or saving the world in any way, shape or form. Am I understood?"

"Yes, Madam Pomfrey," they both said in perfect unison.

"Good," she said.

[I think we really scared her this time,] Draco commented and Harry could only agree.

"Now I will expect you back here Friday morning," she told them, "at which time we shall reassess if you may return to light teaching duties for the last week of term."

"We'll be here," Harry promised, "and, Madam Pomfrey, thank you for putting us back together again."

"Yes, well, someone has to," the school healer replied in her usual concise tone, but she was smiling just slightly. "Now be off with you, you are cluttering up my hospital wing."

"Thank you," Draco added as they left. [Quick, before she changes her mind,] he added silently to Harry.

It was the middle of the morning, so classes were in full swing and they made it back to their room without meeting anyone. Harry had to sit down as soon as he was inside. He was much stronger than when he had woken up, but he was nowhere near full strength. Draco seemed to be improving faster, which was somewhat frustrating.

"You have more to deal with than I do," Draco said, picking up on his thoughts, "and the magic went through you."

"Still annoying," he replied, because there was no point in arguing, especially since Draco was right. "At least I'm not draining you anymore."

The blood bond should have dissolved as soon as the ritual was ended, but according to what Hilde had told them, something about their connection had kept it going while they slept. It had only released when they had begun to wake up.

"I initiated the blood bond, I had the power to end it," Draco said. "For once that was all on me."

There were so many things Harry could have said to that, but didn't. They had had this discussion a time or two already and he never won.

"Do you think Madam Pomfrey will let us go back to teaching next week?" he asked instead. "I feel so guilty with everyone covering for us."

"She will if she thinks we're up to it," was the very practical response. "I would say 'stop worrying', but when has that ever worked?"

"I still can't believe we were asleep so long," Harry had trouble remembering it was December. "I haven't done any of my Christmas shopping."

Draco laughed.

"Of course you would think of that," he said, still laughing.

"And Sirius' trial is only a week and a half away," Harry added and Draco sobered.

"Well at least with time on our hands we can prepare for that," Draco told him. "Now I know I read something while we were researching you-know-what about testifying in front of the Wizengamot. I didn't pay any attention to it at the time because it wasn't relevant, but Madam Pomfrey did say we were allowed to read."

Harry went to stand up.

"You're staying here," Draco said before he could climb to his feet.

"But..."

"No buts, you need to rest. I'll go to the library and do the leg work, you can be my note taker."

"I can sit down in the library as well as I can sit at our desk," Harry pointed out.

"But I'm pretty sure the reference is in the Restricted Section and that's hard on you on a good day. It's not as if we can't have the exact same conversation with you here and me there as we could with both of us there. It will just be easier this way."

Harry frowned; he didn't like Draco doing all the work.

"Do not make me call Madam Pomfrey," Draco added.

"You wouldn't."

"Try me."

Harry pouted and then sighed in defeat.

"I hate you sometimes."

"Only when I'm right," Draco said and grinned. "Now what do we say?"

"Draco knows best, always listen to Draco," Harry dutifully said, but rolled his eyes for good measure.

Draco walked over and gave him a kiss, which made him feel a little better.

"I love you, you Gryffindor idiot," Draco said. "No moving further than from here to the desk, okay?"

"I promise," Harry agreed, which probably illustrated how much the walk from the hospital wing had taken it out of him.

Chapter Text

The fact that the Ministry was full of brainless idiots and they could still take Sirius away from him had been playing on Harry's mind ever since he had found out there was a trial date. However, when Draco found the reference they had spoken about he felt much better. When Draco contacted his mother, who called in a few favours and a folder arrived by owl before tea time, it was even better.

Unfortunately they couldn't share the information immediately, they had to wait until the prearranged meeting later in the day. Sirius, Remus and Dumbledore were in conference, preparing for the trial when the couple descended on them.

"We know how to make the court believe," Harry said as soon as they were admitted; "and they won't be able to say anyone is playing with words or half truths."

"What have you found?" Remus asked.

"They won't be able to argue if they see it for themselves," Draco said.

That caused more frowns from the older men in the room.

"But pensieve memories are not admissible as evidence because they can be tampered with," Dumbledore said calmly.

"Not thinking of using a pensieve," Harry said openly, "thinking of using me."

He placed the copy of court records he had in his hand on the desk so the others could see it.

"It seems to be common knowledge that Veritaserum does not have the same effect on Hecatemae," he continued quickly, "but what no one was very clear on is what it does do. This tells us and it also gives us a precedent for using me the same way."

He let the other three read what Draco and he already knew. The transcript was of a court case from a little over one hundred and fifty years previously where the prosecution was casting doubt on the defendant's testimony. The wizard in question had the good luck to be a close friend of Hecatema Jennifer Cotton who had offered her services to sort out the rather serious misunderstanding. She had proven, to the court's satisfaction, that Veritaserum, while not causing her to speak the truth, did cause any projection she made with her mind to be perfectly accurate.

Harry had been quite interested to see that the transcript mentioned that Jennifer's primary area of research was mental projection, but he had decided to find out exactly what that meant at a later date when he wasn't quite so busy. He knew he could project; he had done it in DADA last year with the Boggart and the mirror and he was willing to do anything to help Sirius.

"Harry," his godfather said gravely, looking up at him, "this would make you a conduit for some horrible things, you can't do this."

It was not exactly an unexpected reaction.

"Sirius," he said firmly, "if they see it they cannot dispute it; do you know what it would do to me if those morons decided that they were right all along and tried to send you back to Azkaban? And don't say there's no way they would, because we all know that justice has little to do with what goes on in the Ministry. Fudge is only interested in a political victory, which mean he wants you to be guilty. This is for me as much as it is for you."

There was no way Harry was going to let anyone's sensibilities stop him in this.

"And are you sure you can do it, Harry?" Dumbledore asked reasonably.

"I have been in someone else's head before and the DADA class from last year can tell you how I can project," he replied honestly. "I'll need to practice, but, yes, I'm sure I can do it."

"But will the court allow it?" Remus asked.

On that Dumbledore was the only expert and Harry looked to his mentor.

"They will have no choice," the headmaster said ; "the Wizengamot has acknowledged this method of giving evidence, they cannot rescind this without due cause."

Harry did not want to have to push this, but Sirius still appeared worried by the whole idea. He was about to launch into a whole argument of why his godfather should accept this when Draco placed a hand on his back.

[Just wait and don't let him look away,] his lover advised evenly.

Without giving any indication that Draco had spoken to him, Harry did as he was told and made sure that he kept Sirius' gaze. This was important to him and he was ready to do anything to help his godfather and he tried to make his expression reflect this.

"You really want to do this?" Sirius sounded unsure that Harry was serious.

"Yes," he replied honestly; "I want to be sure you will be free."

Now his godfather looked away as Sirius cast his eyes around the rest of the room; Harry knew he already had the others' support. If Sirius gave his consent no one else would argue.

"All right," his godfather said eventually with a reluctant nod, "but how are you going to practice? No offence, but I don't think you want to be in my head straight away."

"We haven't figured that bit out yet," Draco admitted.

* * *

Harry had wanted to launch straight into practicing the first part of what he needed for the trial: the mental projection. That part at least was easy and he could start with Draco. However, Draco had insisted that they ask Madam Pomfrey first because, although they weren't banned from doing magic completely, this could be considered strenuous.

Luckily, when they had explained what they intended and why, Madam Pomfrey had agreed. She had also cleared them for classes the next week, although Harry was grounded and not allowed on a broom just yet.

Harry had practised by taking images from Draco's mind and showing them in a small mirror on the table. It took him a while to perfect it, but given that when his soulmate opened his mind to him it was almost as if the thoughts were his, having Draco help was the easiest way to start. Remembering the Boggart incident had not been hard and, as with many things magical these days, recreating it was nowhere near as difficult as it would once have been.

Once he had that down (it had taken a day) he needed to practice with someone else, which was a far more difficult proposition.

"I'll do it," Ron said as Harry finished explaining about how the next stage was going to work to their group of friends.

Harry looked at his best friend in surprise; he had not expected a volunteer quite so fast.

"What?" his friend asked as if his last pronouncement was as simple as the weather.

"I just expected it to be harder than that," Harry said honestly.

"Look, Mate," Ron said supportively, "I trust you and I'm sort of a logical choice. There is no way you can use Sirius for your first try because if you get it wrong, Merlin knows where you'll end up; it's coming up to full moon so Remus isn't the best candidate; our Slytherin friends wouldn't let you near their heads if you paid them, no offence."

"None taken," Pansy replied with a rueful smile.

"I'd rather not know what Hermione thinks," Ron continued, "since some things are best left to the imagination, which leaves me."

"You might have trouble finding anything in there to project," Draco drawled with a laugh, "but he's right."

Ron threw a scrunched up piece of paper at Draco for that remark, but he was grinning.

"Okay," Harry said, "thanks."

"When do we start?" Ron asked.

"How about tomorrow, since it's Saturday?" Harry suggested.

"After breakfast?"

Harry just nodded.

* * *

Draco stood away from Harry and Ron, in the corner, just observing. He had no doubt in Harry's abilities, but he was all too aware Harry tended to push himself far too hard. He was not going to allow that.

"It's not exactly Legilimency," Harry said after having set up his mirror on the table and sitting Ron down on the stool in front of it, "but it ends up with the same result. You concentrate on what you want me to project in the mirror and I try and extract it."

"What should I think about?" Ron asked.

"Anything that is a strong memory," Harry replied.

"Preferably something pleasant," Draco added for good measure.

Ron had the gall to grin at him. He looked back coolly.

"I'm watching you, Weasley," he said for good measure, which made Ron grin even more.

He mourned the days when he had been vaguely terrifying to Gryffindors.

Technically Harry had never deliberately been in someone else's head except his. Every time it had happened it had been accidental, but Draco was perfectly sure Harry could make it happen deliberately. Harry was not a practiced Legilimens, he could not dig deep, but the surface thoughts would be no problem for him.

"Okay," Ron said, "I've got one."

"Here goes," Harry said and placed his hands on Ron's shoulders.

As ever, Draco felt Harry's magic shift and he quieted him mind so he would not distract his soulmate from what he was doing. Harry's jaw was set, there was a small frown between his green eyes as they stared directly at Ron's forehead. It was an expression of supreme concentration.

For a few seconds nothing happened. It was as if time had all but come to a stop, until, suddenly, Harry moved. Looking away from Ron, he pointed his wand at the mirror and cast the not-quite-a-revealing charm. A picture appeared in the reflective surface.

At first it was blurry shapes, but then it resolved. Draco recognised Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross and then he saw a scrawny, confused looking boy standing around looking lost. With a start he realised it had to be the first time Ron had ever laid eyes on Harry.

The image moved as Ron must have moved, but then it shuddered and disappeared.

"Bugger," Harry said.

"I'm impressed, Mate," Ron said, "didn't think you'd get anything out of my thick skull on the first try."

"Count me astounded that we now have proof there are thoughts in that brain at all," Draco added his own two knuts.

"I couldn't keep the connection," Harry complained.

"That's why you're practicing," Ron said and grinned, which was exactly the right way to handle Harry, Draco was impressed. "A Galleon says you'll have it by lunch time."

"Tea time," Draco put in his own bet, "I don't want him pushing too hard."

He knew Harry's peculiar subconscious would take that as a challenge and he was pretty sure Ron was right. This was one bet he wouldn't mind losing.

* * *

Harry had, in fact, managed to produce a stable projection from Ron by lunch time on Saturday. They had then spent a good portion of the afternoon practicing before Draco had called a halt to proceedings. They reconvened Sunday afternoon. There was one significant difference, on the table was a vial of Veritaserum from Snape.

"Now we make sure this stuff actually works," Harry said as they set up the same way they had done the previous day.

"What do you want to do first?" Ron asked.

"A control," Harry decided. "We'll do it the same as yesterday to begin with. Then we'll see if I can change what I'm projecting."

Ron nodded and settled himself into a comfortable position on the stool. Harry stared at his friend, not, as some might expect, straight in the eyes, but right in the centre of Ron's forehead. He really wasn't sure why that spot worked, but it gave him no distractions and he wasn't going to argue. Next he placed his hands on Ron's shoulders and did not immediately sure up his mental barriers to block out the feeling of Ron.

It was an alien thing to do and he had to let his mind get used to the idea again. He would definitely not have enjoyed doing this with anyone but a close friend. As it was the sense of Ron was warm and familiar and his instincts came into line.

Next he opened his barriers a little bit more, only this time very specifically. He pictured it like boring a hole through his mental shield between him and Ron. Bit by bit he made the hole bigger until the memory Ron was concentrating on resolved in his head. He held it for a moment, allowing his mind to get used to the idea, and then he turned and cast the revealing spell on the mirror.

Ron had chosen his birthday party at The Burrow from when he was small. Harry could feel it was a very fond memory. He would have smiled if he hadn't been too busy concentrating.

He let the memory play out as little Ron ate a huge slice of his mum's best cake, before he broke the connection.

"Good," he said, "I think I've got it. Now to the next part, let's see if I can alter the projection."

"Okay," Ron agreed.

They set up again and Harry went through the same procedure, this time, however, when he cast the spell he concentrated on one single aspect of the memory. It popped up in the mirror once again, only this time Ron's cake had a huge dollop of whipped cream on top, with sprinkles. The change was small, but it was significant.

"That's weird," Ron said and the memory dissolved as he lost concentration. "Mate, if it wasn't you, I think I'd be worried."

"That was a little easier than I would like to admit," Harry agreed. "Now I know why some things aren't allowed as evidence. Time for the Veritaserum then."

Now Draco walked over from his observation corner. They had agreed he would administer the potion and they had the antidote on hand in case Harry had an adverse reaction.

"Three drops only," Draco said while pouring a small glass of water.

As Draco added exactly the right dose it was more than clear to Harry why his soulmate made such a brilliant potion's master. Every movement was precise.

"Here," Draco said and handed him the glass, [and let me know if you feel anything strange immediately.]

[Of course,] Harry replied and downed the adulterated water.

He felt the tingle of magic as he did with all potions these days, but that was about it. Other than that he didn't feel any other effect.

"What's your name?" Draco asked.

"Merlin," Harry replied.

"Right, well now we know all the stories are true," Draco said. [What's your name?] he asked silently this time.

[Harry Potter,] Harry replied, even though he tried to say 'Merlin' again.

"Any mental projection then," Draco decided and Harry had to agree.

"I take it you two are talking behind my back again?" Ron asked.

"Harry couldn't lie to me mind to mind," Draco explained.

"I thought he couldn't lie to you anyway," Ron pointed out.

"Well he can lie," Draco replied, "I just know if he is."

It was a fine distinction, but one Harry was pleased about because it proved all the theory was spot on so far.

"Okay," he said, "let's do this."

First of all he projected exactly what he was seeing in Ron's head, like the control. However, when he tried to repeat the experiment and alter the memory he was projecting he just couldn't seem to get his mind to play ball. No matter how hard he thought about it, he could not project anything into the memory. He tried four times.

"That's enough," Draco finally said and Harry broke the connection instantly, stepping back from Ron.

It was only then he realised he was feeling rather tired.

"The Veritaserum must be having more of an effect than we can see," Draco concluded, "it's making you use far more energy than before. Here, take the antidote."

Harry did not argue and downed the vial Draco handed him. The Veritaserum had been virtually tasteless, but the antidote was vile, not that, that surprised him. Any potion that did good was always horrid.

"Ugh," he said and decided that sitting down would be a really good idea. "Guess I'm going to have to practice some more before I'm ready for the trial."

"Count me in," Ron agreed.

"You're not allowed to over-do it," Draco warned, "or you'll have the wrath of Madam Pomfrey down on all of us, not to mention my wrath."

"I just need a bit of a sit down," he promised, "and maybe a biscuit."

Only as the antidote kicked in did he realise he was a bit peckish. It was probably going to be advisable to stock up on supplies before he did any more projecting.

Chapter Text

All Harry's pupils had been overjoyed to see him return to classes on the Monday, apparently some of those who had stood in were not stellar flying teachers. Given that, after the first day, he was only too aware why Madam Pomfrey had made him promise not to overtax himself, at least his ego was doing well.

That night he'd eaten then fallen straight to sleep, so after that he paced himself better. Every day he was more back to his normal self, but he knew he had really done a number on his system with raising Sirius. However, he did very little with his spare time for the next four days, other than practice projecting with Ron. He wanted it perfected before he and Sirius tried it. Or rather Draco was adamant about that and he kind of agreed.

However, by Friday they both deemed him ready.

They set up in the same way as with Ron, and Harry explained everything. It was only him, Sirius and Draco, so as not to create any distractions. Over his time practicing with Ron, Harry had realised that the more times he made contact with a certain mind the easier it became. However the first few times it was very easy for something to break his concentration.

"So it really does work then?" Sirius asked.

"It really works," Harry replied and nodded. "When we use the Veritaserum I have to project the truth and something about the way it all works means that I can only see what you really remember, even if you're trying to embellish it. We tried it with Ron."

"You're saying I have to really believe what I'm remembering for you to project it?" Sirius checked.

Harry nodded, not sure what his godfather was getting at.

"Amazing," Sirius said, "even a powerful Legilimens can have problems seeing through well put together lies."

He hadn't thought of it that way.

"I really don't know how it works," he admitted, "just that it does."

"Makes me really glad you're on our side," Sirius replied with a grin.

It was bravado, they were both nervous about this, Harry could tell without any of his extra abilities, but he let Sirius have it.

"Aren't we all," Draco agreed. "He'd make a really bad Dark Lord though," Draco carried on, "he has this really irritating nice streak."

That made Sirius grin for real.

[Thanks,] Harry sent to his soulmate.

"Okay," Sirius said, "so what shall I remember?"

"Something happy," Harry said as if it was simply an offhand suggestion and they didn't both know that Sirius sometimes had trouble with that.

Sirius' body had been greatly restored by his death and return to life, but his mind still held the scars of Azkaban.

"I know just the thing," Sirius said, "whenever you're ready."

Harry prepared himself as best he could, placed his hands on Sirius' shoulders and let the presence of his godfather into his awareness. He immediately stepped back.

"Sorry," he apologised.

"Did I do something wrong?" Sirius asked.

"No," Harry replied, "your presence is just a lot stronger than Ron's. It was a bit of a shock, that all. You're very there, if you see what I mean."

The small frown said that Sirius most likely didn't.

"Probably to do with having to stand up to Dementors for so many years," Draco said and made Harry look over, "that and dying. You must have a very clear sense of self to have survived."

"If you say so," Sirius replied.

"Okay, let's try this again," Harry said and moved back into position.

This time he was better prepared and everything went smoothly. It was a lot harder than with Ron because he was so familiar with his best friend now, but it worked and a picture appeared in the mirror. Rose petals were dancing in the air and it was only belatedly that Harry realised he was witnessing part of his parents' wedding from Sirius' perspective. He felt Sirius' joy as the happy couple kissed and he couldn't help smiling as well.

Then suddenly the memory shifted to darkness, a feeling of desolation and the ruins of a house. The pure pain of the emotion behind the memory made Harry gasp. It was Sirius who broke the connection by leaning back and away.

"Sorry," Sirius apologised immediately, "I didn't mean for that to happen. I wasn't thinking of that at all."

It was only then that Harry realised what he had seen: Godric's Hollow. Sooner or later he was going to have to see all of that and more and he realised it was going to be even harder than he had thought.

* * *

The Wizengamot was full; it seemed every single member wanted to be there for Sirius' trial. The fact that Dumbledore had been reinstated and would be leading the proceedings made Harry feel a little better, but that there had to be a trial at all still galled him.

Everything Harry had ever said about Voldemort had proved to be true, but they still wouldn't take him at his word about Wormtail. It was just another reason Fudge had to go as soon as possible. How the man had clung on after everything that had happened was a mystery to everyone.

The chair with its chains was exactly how he remembered it. He knew without a doubt Fudge would demand their use on Sirius and that annoyed him even more. Sirius was no more dangerous to the court than he had been. He lowered his barriers just a little and the room lit up. It appeared that there was more magic in the court than he had ever realised.

What had most of his attention, however, was the knot of magic on the back of the chair that flowed into the chains like a spider web. It had to be the control mechanism. It wasn't exactly a complex charm by the looks of it, in fact it looked rather precarious, as if it had been left too long without maintenance. On impulse he lowered his barriers just a little more and called to the magic.

For a moment he felt resistance, like pulling on a string, and then it gave. The knot unravelled and slithered to the floor. Since no one reacted, Harry had to assume he was the only one who could see it. It moved towards him, but he let it go and it shimmered and dissolved into the floor.

[What did you do?] Draco asked immediately.

Harry just showed him.

[Good,] was Draco's opinion, [those things are archaic, barbaric and humiliating. Now they'll have to think of something not out of the Dark Ages if they want to contain a prisoner.]

[My thoughts exactly,] Harry replied, [well not that eloquent, but, definitely.]

He could tell when the members of the Wizengamot noticed him, because a buzz of noise started. Fudge, who was on the other side of the room in the front row with his lackeys also realised something was going on.

"Point of order," the man said standing up, "this is a closed session of the Wizengamot, all witnesses must wait outside."

"Mr Potter is not simply a witness, Cornelius," Dumbledore replied from where he was taking his seat, "Mr Potter will be assisting with Mr Black's testimony, and of course where Mr Potter goes so does Mr Malfoy."

"This is most irregular," Fudge protested.

"Please would you explain, Professor Dumbledore," Amelia Bones interrupted.

"Of course," Dumbledore replied, as if he was not the Chief Warlock and technically in charge anyway. "Since this case is such a controversial matter, and words can be so problematic in such instances, Sirius Black's testimony will be given via mental projection. Mr Potter had volunteered to be the instrument of this projection."

"Mental projections can be altered," Fudge interrupted right on cue.

[It's like we gave him a script,] Harry commented silently to Draco.

"Not when a Hecatemus has taken Veritaserum they cannot," Dumbledore replied with his illusion of perfect calm. "There is precedent for such testimony based on the work of Hecatema Jennifer Cotton."

"How can we be sure this woman's work is accurate?" Fudge blustered. "I demand proof."

"Are you saying, Minister, that you wish to bring into question the validity of the life's work of Jennifer Cotton," Dumbledore paused just momentarily to give Fudge enough time to start to say yes, "the Hecatema on whose investigations much of the modern regulations on the use of Legilimency and other such techniques in law enforcement are based?"

Fudge slammed his mouth shut as the ramifications of that particular statement slid home. Harry was pretty sure that was one legal quagmire even their idiot of a Minister did not want to fall into.

"The precedent stands," Madam Bones said in a very authoritative voice when Fudge did not speak up, "the court recognises Harry Potter as a conduit for legal testimony from willing participants while under the influence of Veritaserum."

And that was that.

"I'm so glad we're in agreement," Dumbledore said. "Please bring in the defendant Sirius Black and the means for him to testify."

There was a loud muttering throughout the chamber as the Aurors escorted Sirius into the room. The fact he looked every inch the pureblood wizard that he was, rather than an escapee from Azkaban, seemed to have surprised a few people. The moment they had all stepped into the Ministry, the Auror's had taken Sirius into custody, but they had only taken his wand, not restrained him.

Fudge looked almost gleeful as Sirius sat down. Of course the chains didn't so much as chink.

"What is going on here?" Fudge demanded. "The defendant is a dangerous wizard and must be contained."

"It appears that the chains do not agree, Cornelius," Dumbledore said as if he was talking about the weather. "I would also remind the court that Sirius Black is here today of his own free will because he wishes to see this matter resolved. No one could have removed him from Hogwarts against his wishes."

"Your doing as well," Fudge accused.

"I can honestly say I have had nothing to do with Sirius' sanctuary at Hogwarts, nor the deactivation of the restrains on the defendant's chair," Dumbledore said and looked at Fudge, daring the man to challenge his word. "These are ancient magics, Cornelius, not always comprehendible to our modern minds."

Ever since the acknowledged return of Voldemort, very few people doubted Dumbledore's word. While all that was going on, two other men were carrying what Harry knew to be a six foot by five foot mirror to the far end of the courtroom. When they uncovered it there was yet more muttering.

"If there are no more objections, shall we begin?" Dumbledore asked, looking around the room.

No one spoke up.

"Are you Sirius Black, son of Orion and Walburga Black?" Dumbledore asked.

"I am," Sirius replied.

"You stand accused of the betrayal of Lily and James Potter to Lord Voldemort, the murder of twelve Muggles, and the murder of Peter Pettigrew," Dumbledore continued, "how do you plead?"

"Not guilty on all counts," Sirius said, clearly and evenly, looking around the whole room as he spoke.

It was a very pointed display and Harry felt the air in the room shift.

"You have agreed to share your memories of these events with the court with the assistance of Harry James Potter, have you not?" Dumbledore asked.

"I have," Sirius acknowledge.

"Please step forward, Mr Potter," the headmaster said.

Harry moved from his seat and walked to where Sirius was sitting.

"Please bring out the Veritaserum," Dumbledore ordered.

The door at the back of the room opened and a woman walked in wearing very official robes. Harry didn't know who she was, but she was carrying a vial.

"If the court pleases, this is three drops of Veritaserum mixed with water by members of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement," Dumbledore told everyone.

"I can attest to this," Madam Bones added before Fudge could so much as twitch.

"At this juncture I would like to remind the court that Veritaserum does not have the same effect on Hecatemae, in that they are not compelled to speak the truth, however, it does render all projections of a mental nature perfectly accurate," Dumbledore explained. "There can be no alteration of the memory be it on Mr Potter's part and what we will see it a true representation of the events as Mr Black recalls them."

There were murmurings at that, but no objections.

"Mr Potter, if you would be so good as to take the Veritaserum."

Harry took the vial and knocked it back instantly so there could be no doubt that he had done exactly as asked.

"When you are ready, if you will begin."

He stepped round in front of Sirius, meeting his godfather's eyes. They were both resolute, but neither of them was looking forward to this. Harry took out his wand, holding it in his right hand, and then placed his hands on Sirius' shoulders. Steeling himself for what was to come, he pushed all his emotions way down deep using the Oclumency training which had kept him sane through his sixth year. In this he was a vessel, he could not afford to react.

It took him only moments to connect with Sirius' mind. He half turned, cast the reveal spell on the mirror and what Sirius was remembering appeared for everyone to see. Sirius was flying.

As Sirius came in to land near the ruins of Godric's Hollow Harry did his best not to think at all.

Sirius showed the court everything from that night including wanting to take baby Harry, giving Hagrid his bike, tracking down Pettigrew, and especially the fight with Peter in vivid detail. Everyone saw Pettigrew shout at Sirius and how Sirius barely had a chance to raise his wand as Pettigrew exploded. He even showed his arrest and the presence of Cornelius Fudge.

"If he is so innocent, why was he laughing at the death of those Muggles?" Fudge demanded and Harry's concentration snapped.

He blinked and stepped back. There were tears in Sirius' eyes.

"I was laughing because I thought Pettigrew had killed himself," Sirius said, "and I was more than a little hysterical. I had just seen two of my best friends betrayed and killed by someone I trusted implicitly. I was not in my right mind."

"When did you realised Peter Pettigrew was not dead?" Dumbledore asked.

"When I saw him in rat form in a picture in the Daily Prophet while I was in Azkaban," Sirius replied.

"Mr Pettigrew is an Animgus?"

"Yes."

"What did you do?"

"I escaped and went to Hogwarts to protect Harry."

Harry was still reeling from experiencing Sirius' memories, but he stood tall and nodded in acknowledgement to that.

"Mr Pettigrew is not registered as an Animagus," Fudge interrupted. "Where is the proof?"

"Mr Potter," Dumbledore said.

Harry pulled up the memory of the Shrieking Shack and threw it at the mirror. There is all its glory was Pettigrew's transformation from rat to man. He cut it off before Sirius and Remus discussed murdering their one time friend.

"He had been hiding as Ron's pet the entire time," Harry said, his voice entirely flat as he tried to keep himself under control. "If you want I can show you how he helped bring Voldemort back after the Triwizard Tournament."

Harry's legs were beginning to shake, but for Sirius he would do anything.

"Mr Potter's testimony on the subject is on record," Madam Bones stepped in before Fudge could say anything, "I believe that will be unnecessary."

Harry looked to Draco who was sitting in his seat, back ramrod straight, face blank.

[Just say the word,] Draco told him.

They had agreed that Draco would remain out of things unless absolutely necessary. It never did to remind wizards that a Malfoy was involved at any level in something like this.

[Thanks,] he said, [but I'll be okay.]

"Perhaps if we could speed things up," Dumbledore suggested. "The Veritaserum has a debilitating affect on the Hecatemus system."

Of course Fudge was not going to let it go there. What followed were more questions, a few more projections from Sirius and from Harry, until eventually Harry's system had just had enough. He sagged against the side of the chair and Draco was out of his seat like a shot.

"Antidote now!" was all Draco said.

The court official who had brought the potion in knew not to argue and passed Draco another vial. Harry drank it without resistance and let Draco help him back to his seat.

"Thank you, Mr Potter, for your assistance," Dumbledore said. "It appears we must continue with more mundane methods."

Fudge still wasn't about to give up though and the questions continued to fly.

[He's already lost and he knows it,] Draco said as he held Harry up beside him.

[He should have already lost without this charade,] Harry replied, letting annoyance rule over some of the other things he was trying not to feel.

[Of course, but he should have lost his job when it was revealed Voldemort was back as well, but he clung on,] Draco said. [He has some very powerful friends. They'll start deserting him after this.]

[They better,] was all Harry said.

Fudge fought to the bitter end, until finally Madam Bones had had enough.

"All for acquitting Sirius Black of all charges," she stood up and announced loudly.

"Aye," came from all directions.

"Sirius Black," Dumbledore said before Fudge could try anything else, "we the Wizengamot find you not guilty of all crimes with which you are charged. You are free to go."

Fudge's expression was somewhere between amazed and confused as the verdict was passed. It was as if he couldn't believe it had just happened. Harry hoped it gave the Minister nightmares.

Chapter Text

As soon as hugs had been had all round and Dumbledore had assured Harry that everything else was a formality and he would see to it that Sirius' wand was returned, etcetera, Draco made sure Harry got back to Hogwarts by the fastest method possible.

"Everything went well, Gentlemen?" Madam Pomfrey asked as soon as they entered the hospital wing.

"Perfectly, thank you, Madam Pomfrey," Draco replied, "but I'd just like to make sure the Veritaserum had no lasting effects on this idiot here."

He had not been happy with how long Fudge had dragged things out, not at all.

"Your idiot," Harry muttered, but he was about dead on his feet.

"Of course, if you'd just like to sit Mr Potter down here," the school nurse invited and indicated a chair.

The way Harry went without a fight spoke volumes. The way he tensed as soon as Madam Pomfrey started to use her diagnostic charms screamed even more loudly that he was not in top shape. Draco was all too aware of the signs.

"Energy levels low, but no other signs of distress," Madam Pomfrey said in short order. "I prescribe food and then sleep."

Only then did Draco sigh in relief.

"Thank you very much, Madam Pomfrey," he said, "I believe I can handle that. Come on, Harry, before you fall asleep where you're sitting."

"Thank you," Harry said, or at least tried to, it was rather mumbled, but Draco was pretty sure Madam Pomfrey got the message.

"Have a good Christmas holiday," Draco said as he guided Harry out of the room.

He knew many of the staff had stayed on an extra few days just in case they were needed after Sirius' trial. It was a stark indication of exactly how much faith most of Hogwarts had in the Ministry.

"And you, Gentlemen," Madam Pomfrey replied. "Do try to relax, Healer's orders."

"Oh, I intend to make sure we do," Draco replied and threw a smile over his shoulder at the woman.

Harry was not going to do more than open presents and eat over Christmas if Draco had any say in the matter.

He accosted a house elf who was going about her business on the way back to their room and asked her if she could request that the kitchen elves bring some food up for them. She was more than happy to help. Then he just had to steer Harry in the right direction.

"We missed the end of term," Harry said suddenly, as if he'd only just realised it.

"Yes we did," he replied, "but don't worry, we were busy and nobody minded."

"Weren't we supposed to be on the train to escort it back to London?"

"No, not this time."

"Everyone else did."

Of course Harry would have realised that now.

"Like I said, we were busy," Draco insisted. "If you recall you were up at six that morning to practice with Sirius in preparation for today, so stop worrying about it."

"But..."

"Harry, I know you're half asleep, but don't be an idiot."

Harry half closed green eyes opened a bit wider at that and glared at him.

"I'm not being an idiot, we were asleep for weeks, everyone was covering for us for so long ..."

Draco kissed him to stop him talking. Luckily Harry wasn't expecting the move so did not simply move to their mental connection.

"It's called priorities, Love," Draco assured him. "We can do every Hogsmeade weekend next term to make up for it, if it makes you happy, but, I promise, you have nothing to worry about."

Harry looked at him a while longer, but then his eyelids began to droop again.

"Okay," Harry said.

* * *

Harry had slept the entire afternoon and had at least been feeling awake when Ron had knocked on their door to say Sirius et al were finally back. Dumbledore had also arranged a party to celebrate. That had been two hours ago.

Harry had really tried to appear cheerful and pleased to anyone he spoke to, but the trial had been hard on him and it was difficult to maintain the façade. Draco had spent the entire party so far glued to his side, diverting awkward questions and generally being a complete star when it came to looking after him. Now that the celebrations had started to wind down Harry was frazzled around the edges and his smile felt like it would break at any moment.

He found his eyes wandering to his godfather where Sirius was playing at being the life and soul of the party. The man was obviously happy, but when his gaze flicked over to Harry, he could not help but see the shadows lurking in Sirius' eyes. It was then that he noticed Remus lurking only a few feet from his godfather and he realised that Remus was glancing at Sirius in the same way Draco had been continually looking at him all evening.

They both had their guardian angels and they were both as mentally fried by the day as each other. Harry decided that enough was enough.

[It's time to get us, Sirius and Remus out of here,] he told Draco silently and Draco squeezed his hand in response, although Draco continued the polite conversation he was having with Professor Sprout.

While he waited, Harry allowed his barriers to drop, just slightly. Sometimes it helped for him to refocus, as if lowering and raising his mental protections a little re-energised them or something. This time, however, it was a mistake.

He hadn't been paying quite enough attention and the room bloomed with colour. Sometimes he forgot quite what a powerful group of individuals Hogwarts staff really were. He put his hand to his head and closed his eyes, pushing his barriers back up as firmly as possible.

"Harry?" Draco asked, arm snaking around his back instantly.

"Sorry," he apologised, "miscalculated."

He opened his eyes to see Professor Sprout looking at him in a very worried manner.

"My apologies, Professor Sprout," Draco said, "I think it may be time for us to head back to our room."

"Of course, Boys," the kindly head of Hufflepuff said with a smile, "it must have been a very trying day."

"A bit," Harry replied.

[Understatement of the century,] Draco commented silently.

"Good night," Harry added and let Draco lead the way over to Sirius. "We're packing it in," he said when his godfather acknowledged him.

"That sounds like a splendid idea," Remus said before Sirius could comment, "I think I might do the same. What about you Sirius? You must be knackered what with this afternoon piled on top of everything this morning."

Harry had heard the tale of the red tape when he'd found Sirius at the beginning of the party. Apparently even being declared innocent meant you had to jump through hoops at the Ministry.

"I am a bit," Sirius agreed. "Would you mind if we cut and run, Sybill?"

"Of course not," Professor Trelawney said, "I'm just so very glad this is all cleared up. Of course I had no doubt it would be, I saw it in the tea leaves only yesterday."

Harry shared a smile with the woman. They both knew she was nowhere near as eccentric as she pretended, but in public she always played the part.

It took them a little while to get out of the room, what with everyone left wanting to say goodbye to all of them, but they eventually made it.

"I need a drink," Sirius said pointedly the moment the door closed, "a real one. Anyone care to join me."

"I'm assuming you have a stash," Remus said in a tone that matched his friend almost perfectly, "feel free to lead the way."

The two men looked at Harry and Draco, at which point Harry was surprised to find that it was a serious question. Drinking was not something he had ever been invited to do before and it caught him rather by surprise.

"We'd love to," Draco said, which caused Harry to look at him open-mouthed.

He probably would have spent several minutes just staring if it hadn't been for the fact that Sirius took the affirmative answer and began to walk. Remus followed Sirius, and Draco slipped his hand through Harry's arm and began to do the same, taking him in the same direction.

[You don't have to drink much,] Draco said silently, [but there is no way you and Sirius are going to sleep before you have had a chance to deal with what you both experienced today. If that means a little bit of male bonding over alcohol then so be it.]

As always Draco's logic was impeccable, but what bothered Harry was the fact that he hadn't had anything stronger than half a glass of champagne since his powers surfaced, and he was positive Sirius was not intending to serve anything so tame. It was the way Sirius had stressed the words 'a real one' that rather gave it away. Wondering what he had let himself in for, he followed Sirius towards the guest quarters.

* * *

Harry looked at the drink in his hand and then over at Draco who was also peering dubiously at the glass he was holding. Sirius had already downed one glass and was on to his second, but he had experience at this type of thing and neither Harry nor Draco did. Even Draco, who unlike Harry, was used to more than him, courtesy of his ingrained socialising skills, did not appear to believe that the tumbler of firewhisky he had been handed was in the realms of anything he had had before.

[When he said he needed a drink, he wasn't joking was he,] Draco said and took an initial sip.

Harry experience with firewhisky had been the briefest of experimental drinking and a very small glass Ron's mum had once poured down his throat for medicinal purposes. With this in mind he sipped the beverage cautiously and let the liquid slide down his throat.

To his surprise it was quite pleasant; it burned, but in no way was the spirit as harsh as the half bottle he and Ron had managed to consume one weekend in their sixth year, after which they had sworn never to drink again. They had been, to put it mildly, a little ill. Ron never had told him where he had acquired the firewhisky and, in fact, avoided the subject if it was ever mentioned.

"I think today may be why they invented Obliviate," Sirius said.

"And the Crucio," Harry added, "because Fudge better hope we never meet in a dark alley."

Sirius saluted him with his glass, so he saluted back.

"He built a large part of his career on your arrest," Draco entered the conversation, "so he was always going to fight. The way he managed to suppress the testimony of certain Aurors after the fight at the Ministry is, frankly, criminal. You should have been cleared then, even if it would have been posthumously at the time."

"It really is time he was unemployed," Remus agreed.

"We keep saying that," Sirius said, "when is someone going to do something about it."

"When we have time," Harry replied with a laugh.

Sirius made a face for a moment, then shrugged.

"Point," he agreed.

"Speaking of time," Remus said, "remember that time we all got so hammered James got magical hiccups."

Sirius grinned almost instantly and then snorted a laugh.

"Those were the days," he said and took another large swig from his firewhisky.

"Magical hiccups?" Harry asked.

"Same as normal hiccups only it's not your diaphragm that goes into spasm, it's your magic," Draco told him. "Has the same effect on the human body."

"And accidental magic happens," Sirius said, his grin broadening. "Just harmless stuff."

"Mostly your dad showered the place with glitter every twenty seconds or so," Remus revealed, also smiling, "although he did grow antlers at one point."

"We spent an hour trying to scare him enough for the hiccups to go away," Sirius said, "only we were all smashed so we weren't very good at it."

Remus snorted a laugh.

"Had to sneak him to Madam Pomfrey in the end," he said. "Wow did we get the disapproving glare of doom."

"I know that one," Harry agreed.

He did his very best not to disappoint Madam Pomfrey, but it had happened. It was a glare to end all glares.

"I know that one too," Draco said with a nod. "I'm not sure I got anything else for six years."

"Well you were a brat," Harry said.

Draco looked at his drink and sighed.

"I was," he agreed, which set Sirius off laughing like a loon. "So come on," Draco went on, "we've heard so many rumours about Marauders, so tell us all the meaty details so we can add whispers to the legend."

Remus and Sirius looked at each other and Remus gave a little shrug.

"Where to start," is how Sirius began and Harry settled in for some tall tales.

Chapter Text

It was somewhere during his second glass of firewhisky, which Harry realised he had been staring at for a good few minutes since the conversation had run dry, that he looked up at Sirius and Remus and found the pair leaning on each other. There was nothing overtly odd about the position his godfather and friend were in; they looked for all the world exactly what they were: two old friends enjoying a drink together. However, the pose sparked curiosity and something else in him. On impulse he lowered his barriers to see what he could see.

For a while Harry just sat there staring, since neither man appeared to have noticed his scrutiny. Remus, who happened to be closest to him, was literally glowing. There was the deep gold of love, not entirely unexpected. What had his attention, however, was the healthy edge of dark red, fiery sexual attraction.

Harry looked at Sirius. There was a core of gold around his godfather, not surprising given how close the two had been as teenagers, but the fact that Sirius was also ablaze with 'any one else touches you and they're dead' type emotion all completely focused at Remus rather took Harry's breath away.

That the two men were clearly madly in love and lust with each other and hadn't even shown the slightest indication on the outside, as far as Harry could tell, was rather shocking. It suddenly occurred to Harry that Sirius and Remus were sitting next to each other pretending to be nothing more than friends when, in fact, they were hopelessly in love with each other.

It finally occurred to Harry that what had spurred his curiosity was sexual tension. At least he was pretty sure it was. He had ceased to analyse how he could deduce these things; he was obviously reading something from what he saw, but it was all instinct and the details were hazy. He was, however, completely certain of his facts.

[They want each other so badly it must hurt,] he said as he kicked his semi-inebriated mind into gear.

Draco looked at him with a raised eyebrow from where he was draped elegantly over the end of the sofa. Harry knew he couldn't explain so he showed his soulmate what he was talking about and then Draco was looking at their companions as hard as he was.

[They're been friends too long,] Draco decided in his usual, rational manner, [they need a push.]

If he had been less relaxed from the alcohol, Draco's reaction might have caused more alarm in Harry, as it was, he glanced questioningly at his soulmate and Draco smiled back mischievously.

[Conversation's dead,] Draco mused with a calculating grin, [might as well find something else to do for a while.]

And then, as Harry watched, Draco languidly pushed himself off the arm of the sofa and moved towards him. Just as he had un-draped himself from the furniture, Draco re-draped himself over Harry, straddling him and settling over his legs. Leaning forward, Draco captured Harry's mouth and he gave in to the kiss, opening his lips as his lover brushed them with his tongue. It never occurred to him not to go along with whatever Draco was planning. He also hadn't realised quite how in need of the kiss he was. By the time Draco broke away Harry had almost completely forgotten why they were doing this in the first place.

"Having fun?" Sirius asked in as amused tone.

Harry turned his head sideways so he could see around Draco to where Remus and his godfather were grinning at him from ear to ear. Heat rose in his cheeks, but he couldn't help the smile that crept onto his face. Draco on the other hand was the epitome of calm and collected as he twisted where he was sitting, throwing a disdainful look at the other two men.

"We just thought we'd show you oldies how it's done," Draco said with calculated arrogance.

Sirius' mouth fell open in indignation.

"Moony," Sirius said with mock offence, "I do believe we have just been insulted, and not very well at that. I'd expect better from a Slytherin."

"I have more important things to do with my mouth at the moment," Draco replied offhandedly, "and I know how to use it, unlike some people in this room."

If Sirius had been sober he might have seen the goading for what it was, although Harry was not completely sure of that since his godfather was well known for jumping before thinking. As it was, with five whiskys in him, Sirius went for the bait.

"Don't know how to use it, hah!" he said putting his glass down. "I will have you know that both of us were one hell of a catch when we were at school, and if Azkaban hadn't cramped my style for a few years the world would tremble at the name Sirius Black for an entirely different reason."

Harry found himself the centre of Draco's attention for a while after that as his soulmate kissed him soundly. It was driving him crazy and he only hoped that Sirius would fall for Draco's trap soon because otherwise he might just rip Draco's clothes off on his godfather's floor, which probably would be going a little too far.

"Prove it," Draco said, suddenly breaking the kiss and twisting to look Sirius in the eye.

"And how exactly do you expect me to do that?" Sirius asked challengingly.

Draco rolled his eyes and made a tutting noise.

"Gryffindors," he said dismissively. "There are two of you, I would have thought even you could work out the logistics."

Harry had to hide the smile as both men suddenly looked somewhere between horrified and hopeful.

"I would offer my services for the education of those less fortunate," Draco continued having calmly turned his back on Sirius and Remus, "but there's no telling who Harry would kill first, which would be detrimental to the lesson."

[Him,] Harry replied lightly, [you I'd slowly torture to death by tying you naked to a bed and making love to you until you just couldn't take it any more.]

Draco smiled at him for that.

[You do know how to make me happy,] Draco said.

"Are we going to take that?" Sirius drew Harry's attention as he spoke to Remus.

"Well if the Marauders' honour is at stake," Remus replied in his usual gentle tones, "I don't see how we can just let them get away with that."

Sirius grinned and moved with the same deliberation Draco had shown, climbing onto Remus' lap like he really meant it. Harry found himself fascinated as his godfather lowered his face towards Remus. The moment they touched Harry jumped, it was almost as if he'd felt an electric shock.

Remus melted into Sirius' lead like he was made of wax and Sirius was a flame; it was a breathtaking sight to behold. However, only too soon it was over and Sirius had turned back towards Draco with a triumphant grin on his face and a somewhat stunned look in his eyes. His face was flushed and his pupils were dilated. Harry knew exactly how his godfather must be feeling.

"That is how it's supposed to be done," Sirius said and climbed off Remus.

It was quite obvious to Harry that Sirius was now wrapped up in the game, but he was still pretending that was all it was. It was going to take a few more rounds before he would admit that it was anything else. That he was still quite willing to play was also blatantly clear and Sirius was waiting for the next challenge.

Draco climbed off Harry and turned to face Sirius so that they were nose to nose. From the feelings coming from him, Harry knew Draco was enjoying himself. He had no idea how far this little game would go, but he hoped it would end with the outcome they were planning on. Knowing that chief goader was Draco's part to play he sat still waiting to find out what his role would be and glanced over at Remus.

It was at this point that Harry realised there was a flaw in the plan; Sirius might still be playing, but from the look on Remus' face he was not. The fact that it appeared to be a game to Sirius had had a pronounced effect on the werewolf. Remus looked lost. The fact that he should have known what Sirius was like and that this was just how he went about things did not seem to have made any difference to Remus. Harry knew without a doubt that bad things were about to occurs.

"Thanks for the drink," Remus said suddenly before Sirius and Draco could get into the dare game that was brewing, "but I have some things I need to do, so I have to be going."

Remus stood up and took a step towards the door without looking up, which was why he missed the rather devastated expression that crossed Sirius' face. That was the straw that broke the donkey's back as far as Harry was concerned and, before Remus could move another step, he stood up, threw his hands out in either direction and did something hideously complicated with the magic in the room that he was sure he wouldn't have been able to repeat if he was sober. Wards similar to those he used when practicing wandless defence leapt into life around the group of four.

"Oh no you don't," he said pointedly as Remus gave him a rather startled look, "you're a Gryffindor, you do not run away."

"Harry?" Draco said and gave him a questioning look.

[We tried it the Slytherin way,] he replied apologetically, [but we should have known it would never work on Gryffindors; far too subtle.]

[And you're sure you want to do this?] Draco asked.

[Time for the sledge hammer,] Harry said firmly with a slight nod.

Draco just smiled at him in reply.

"What do you think you're doing, Harry?" Sirius asked with a frown. "Remus is allowed to leave if he wants to."

The alcohol in Harry's blood stream was definitely living up to its reputation as he threw any caution he had left to the wind.

"No he can't," he said stubbornly, "and don't expect me to undo what I just did any time soon. Do not try and tell me that what you two just did was all part of a game and you don't actually feel something for each other."

There were several things that could have happened next, one of the more likely being Sirius flying off the tip of the wand and shouting very loudly. However, what did occur was complete silence as Remus and Sirius stared at each other like men hit with the stupefy hex.

"But," was as far as Remus managed to say anything before Harry cut him off.

"I can see it," he said pointedly.

Now both men looked at him as if he'd just transfigured himself into a toad.

"Oh in Merlin's name," Draco said as he reached the same point Harry had found moments before. "Remus, how long have you been in love with Sirius?"

For a moment Harry didn't think the werewolf would answer.

"Since we were sixteen," Remus finally said in little more than a whisper.

Before the gasp from Sirius could turn into anything more, Draco continued; "Sirius, how long have you been in love with Remus?"

Again there were a few seconds of silence before the man in question spoke.

"I don't know," Sirius admitted slowly, "but I realised it when the Dementors couldn't take his memory away from me."

"Thank you," Draco said dramatically, "about bloody time by the sounds of it. Now I think you two need to have a long overdue conversation, or a good hard shag; whichever takes your fancy first, and Harry and I need to make ourselves scarce. If you wouldn't mind, Love, we can dispense with the wards now."

Snag number two, Harry had the decency to look sheepish.

"Umm," he said hesitantly.

"Gryffindors," Draco said, throwing his arms into the air, "I'm surrounded by bloody Gryffindors."

The Slytherin's exasperation was very real and Harry swallowed hard, since he was sure he was about to receive the sharp end of his lover's tongue. Draco had just opened his mouth to express his displeasure when he was interrupted by the sound of laughter. Remus was still looking shell shocked; Draco was about to go off the deep end, and Harry was biting his lip nervously, but Sirius - Sirius was, to put to bluntly, laughing his arse off. Harry was not sure who was crazier, him for interfering in his godfather's love life, or Sirius for, well, being Sirius.

"You get us to confess all," the man said between fits of laughter, "and now you can't leave."

For some reason Sirius was finding this hysterically funny even as everyone else just looked at him. Harry wondered briefly if it was Azkaban or death that has so warped his godfather's sense of humour, or whether he'd just always been like that.

"It would serve you both right if I pounced on him now with you both stuck here," Sirius did not seem to be about to cease his enjoyment of the situation.

Harry didn't know whether to be mortified of start laughing as well; it was rather absurd. He was still in trouble with Draco, so he went for the safe bet of doing nothing, but he soon felt amusement coming from his soulmate.

"You are a warped and twisted individual," Draco told Sirius lightly, "but by all means, please do. I'm sure Harry and I can give the pair of you a run for your money."

Harry groaned and looked at Remus for support. At least they seemed to be in agreement if Remus' expression was anything to go by. Sirius had stopped laughing and was looking at Draco with a glint in his eye. From the feelings coming from Draco, Harry knew that Draco had found the proverbial line and was quite willing to step over it. In pure desperation he skimmed his slightly alcohol hazed memory to figure out how he had put the wards up.

"Finite Incantatum," he said under his breath and threw some magic at the wards; to his great relief they came down.

Draco turned his head from where he and Sirius were nose to nose and smiled at Harry.

"See," Darco said, "all he needs is the right motivation."

It took a couple of seconds for that to sink in and then Harry's reaction was instantaneous.

"Bastard!" he said pointedly, at which point Sirius began laughing again.

"Come on, Harry," Draco said brightly and took him by the hand, "let's go back to our room and let Sirius and Remus have some privacy."

Harry did not try and argue, he knew when he was beaten. He allowed himself to be led towards the door.

"Have fun, Boys," Draco threw back over his shoulder as they walked into the corridor.

From the hungry look Draco sent Harry, Harry was in no doubt that they were not returning to their room to go to sleep.

Chapter Text

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."

Draco nodded.

"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..."

"...and dagger?"

"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.

"We can..."

"...see why you need the secrecy."

"But, what an..."

"...advantage."

Harry nodded and Draco was satisfied. With the twins on board this was looking more and more possible.

Chapter Text

Harry spent most of Christmas Eve, his first day at Malfoy Manor, walking around with his mouth open. Not only had Narcissa hired the foremost experts in home defences and had the whole manor redone so it was safe for him and Draco, but she had outdone herself in the decorations department as well. He had thought Hogwarts really went all out for festivals, but Draco's mother had really put on amazing show at the manor. Whereas Hogwarts decorations were usually on the childish side, Narcissa's were sophisticated and delicate.

Icicles, real icicles that were cold to the touch, but not melting all over the floor, decorated the banisters for the main staircase. It was constantly snowing on the first landing, although the snow didn't lay on anything except people when they walked through it. Holly, with bright red berries, silver bells and something with small white flowers adorned the walls in various places in long, beautiful garlands and ivy hung over doorways with sprigs of mistletoe.

Draco had so far caught him ten times in doorways with a grin and a kiss. Harry didn't pause every time he came into a room or anything like that, well, at least he wasn't admitting to it.

Then of course there was the tree. It was huge and it looked as if it had been decorated by artfully trained spiders and then the frost had come down all over it. Candles illuminated the whole thing with gently flickering flames. It was stunning.

By Christmas day, Harry had at least managed to stop gawping.

"You look edible," Draco said as Harry stepped out of the bathroom after doing his best to tame his hair.

They were both dressed in what Draco called smart-casual, with nice trousers, shirts and jackets, but nothing too fussy like ties.

"If I look edible then you look entirely scrumptious," Harry said and smiled.

"Enough with the food metaphors," Draco said, standing up from where he had been lounging on the bed, "it's breakfast time."

Draco had explained that Christmas breakfast was a family tradition, almost as important as Christmas dinner, which would be served at around four in the afternoon. Christmas breakfast was for immediate family, which made Harry ecstatic to realise Narcissa had included Sirius and Remus in that, and Christmas dinner was for slightly more distant family and very close friends. It was going to be a somewhat larger gathering later in the day as Narcissa had invited her sister Andromeda, her husband Ted and Tonks, Snape and Hilde, along with the five of them already in the house.

According to Draco, Andromeda and her husband had not been invited to breakfast only because Narcissa was still in the process of building bridges. Next year Draco assured him, Andromeda and Ted would most likely be staying for the whole season.

Harry was going to miss the Weasleys, but since they had their own family gathering on Christmas day, Narcissa had invited them all over for Boxing Day. It was about sixty-forty as to how many of the current day's guests would still be there on Boxing Day as well.

"Come on," Draco said, grabbing his hand and pulling him towards the door.

[It's like you're eleven again,] Harry said silently as they exited into the hall.

[I haven't felt like this since I was eleven,] Draco replied, beaming at him, [or maybe twelve. Last year I thought this was all gone and now I want to share it all with you.]

Draco charged off down the corridor, dragging Harry behind him and Harry couldn't help it, he started laughing. It was utterly wonderful to see his soulmate so happy. It was the best Christmas present he could ever have received.

As they descended the stairs, Draco set all the icicles swinging so they tinkled against each other.

[Mum used to threaten to take away my Christmas presents every time I used to do that,] Draco said, [but I think she always wanted to do the same herself.]

Harry could feel the charms in the icicles as he touched the garland joining them and on impulse he pushed a little magic into the enchanted chain. The whole thing shivered from one end of the banister to the other and tinkled, almost as if it was laughing.

[Show off,] Draco said, but he was smiling as widely as Harry. [Do it again.]

So he did and this time Harry added a little random spark. All the icicles danced and sparkled with internal light. He had no idea what he'd actually done, but he liked the effect.

"How very beautiful."

Harry turned as he realised they were not alone to find Narcissa standing at the entrance to the parlour. She was resplendent in the most beautiful white dress with green edging and she was smiling.

"Happy Christmas, Mum," Draco said and immediately went over to hug his mother.

"Happy Christmas," Harry added.

He was still having trouble calling Narcissa anything but Mrs Malfoy even though she had made it very clear he was welcome to, so he just mostly avoided using anything at all.

"And happy Christmas to you too, my darling boys," Narcissa replied and held a hand out towards Harry as well.

Harry walked over and took her hand, allowing himself to be pulled into the three way hug. Narcissa released him quickly, but he enjoyed the closeness, just for a moment, even as it made his barriers hum.

"Come then," she said, "our guests are already here."

It had only been a few days since Sirius' trial, but Harry was still excited. Finally being free, Sirius had opted to go and stay with Remus for a few days since Draco's birthday, and Harry had missed him. Harry was really looking forward to seeing him again.

As they walked into the parlour behind Narcissa, Harry's mouth dropped open again, but not because of the decorations this time. He had always known his godfather was a pureblood wizard of impeccable breeding, but he'd never seen Sirius actually look like it before. Even at his trial he hadn't looked anything like he did now. There he'd been the respectable wizard, but not ostentatious. For Christmas he had apparently made even more of an effort.

His black hair was actually styled, he was wearing a thigh length jacket, long, knee high boots and trousers that were so tight they were sinful. His white shirt with a crisp, high collar finished off the whole outfit quite spectacularly.

Then there was Remus, who was not as exaggeratedly dressed as Sirius, but it was more than clear that Sirius had dragged him shopping. The jacket and trousers were more of the style Harry and Draco were wearing, but they were definitely new.

"Harry, Draco," Sirius greeted with exuberance, "Happy Christmas."

"Happy Christmas," Harry replied, accepting the hug when it came, "and to you too Remus."

There was hugging all round. Harry did his best to make his short, but heartfelt.

As soon as they were done a house elf appeared with a tray of very delicate looking long stem glasses containing something that fizzed. It looked like bucks fizz, but Harry never assumed anything when it came to Wizarding food.

"Thank you, Fossy," Narcissa said as they all took one, "if you wouldn't mind telling the kitchen elves that we will be ready to sit down to breakfast in a few minutes."

"Yes, Mistress Narcissa," the elf said with a little bob curtsy and then she disappeared again.

[What is this?] Harry asked as he refrained from sniffing his glass.

[Just some bubbles and some fruit juice,] Draco said, [don't worry, it only has a very little alcohol in it. It wouldn't be seemly to be tipsy at breakfast.]

Harry just about managed not to snort a laugh at that.

"The joy and happiness of the season to one and all," Narcissa toasted and everyone lifted their glasses.

"Joy and happiness," they all agreed.

On his first sip Harry realised two things: it was not orange juice, but something much fruitier, and it was not ordinary champagne. His whole mouth tingled as he drank it.

"That tickles," he said, fingers going to his still tingling lips, even as he smiled. "It's like the popping candy I had once when I was small."

Harry had only ever had popping candy once when Dudley had left a half finished packet lying around in the back garden and Harry had got to it before the ants, but he remembered it clearly. Wizarding sweets often did more interesting things, but he had loved the one illicit treat back when sweets had been a very rare thing for him indeed.

"Muggles have popping candy?" Draco asked.

[Wizards have popping candy?] Harry shot back, it wasn't a sweet he had come across.

[Yes,] Draco said, [but it went out of fashion after someone's teeth fell out a few years ago.]

"Yes," Harry said, answering the earlier question, "but don't ask me how they make it. It just flavoured sugar and something that crackles and pops on your tongue. This makes my tongue tingle in the same way."

He smiled brightly to show he was enjoying the sensation.

[Show me,] Draco requested, so Harry did.

It was at that point he realised that perhaps not everyone was having quite the same experience.

"It must be the magic they use to keep the bubbles at optimum," Draco said. "Mum, if we can figure out how to replicate the same thing without everyone having to be Harry, I think we might be on to a second family fortune."

"One's enough, Draco darling," Narcissa said, which made Sirius crack up.

Remus was just smiling quietly in the background and Harry thought it was one of those perfect moments. Everyone looked so happy. Yes there was a black cloud on the horizon, but at that moment, Harry didn't care.

* * *

Draco absolutely adored Christmas. It had always been his favourite time of the year and being home, in the manor where he had grown up, with everyone he considered family, made it all the better. The fact he now had the opportunity to introduce Harry to all the Malfoy Christmas traditions had him very excited.

The breakfast table was already heaving with breads, cheeses and cold meats as they walked into the dining room and he knew all the hot food would appear as soon as they sat down.

"Wow," Harry said. [Are you sure your mum isn't catering for twenty five, not five?] Harry added silently.

[It's tradition,] Draco replied, [and don't worry, nothing goes to waste. All the cold stuff we don't eat will be packaged up by the house elves and sent to a worthy cause. Once upon a time I assume it was the poor of the parish, but these days it'll be a charity of some kind. A lot of pureblood families do it.]

He could all but feel Harry filing away that titbit of information.

"I'm glad you approve, Harry," his mother said as she glided to the head of the table. "Please, everyone have a seat."

The table was long enough for at least twenty people, more if the extension spells were used, but, as was usual at this time of year, all the places were laid at one end. Draco very firmly did not allow himself to dwell on the fact his mother sat in the place Lucius usually took. He did not want any dark thoughts on such a lovely day. Harry squeezed his hand, so he hadn't managed to cover the reaction completely.

[Your mum looks every part the lady today,] Harry said, [such a lovely dress.]

[You should tell her,] Draco said, glad of the distraction, [it'll make her smile.]

[I'll only say something stupid,] Harry replied, clearly aghast at the suggestion.

"Mum," Draco said as they took their places, "Harry thinks your dress is amazing."

Harry of course started to turn a lovely pink and glared at him.

"Why thank you, Harry," his mum said, "I had it made for last year, but, when it came to the day, did not feel like wearing it. I feel today is a much better day, don't you think."

"Oh definitely," Harry agreed.

"Here, here," Remus added his voice to the conversation.

[See,] was all Draco said to Harry alone.

His mum picked up the little silver bell next to her place and rang it. Immediately the table gained a platter of bacon, black pudding and hot sausages, a tureen of scrambled eggs, two racks of toast, a tall coffee pot and a large tea pot.

"If anyone would like poached or fried eggs or an omelette," his mum said, "please, don't hesitate to ask. Our elves are also very proficient at Eggs Benedict if anyone would prefer it."

[What's Eggs Benedict?] Harry asked almost immediately.

[Poached eggs on muffins, over ham, covered in delicious Hollandaise sauce,] Draco replied.

[Oh,] Harry said, [I think I saw Uncle Vernon eating that once. It was while Aunt Marge was staying, I wasn't allowed at the table.]

Draco very quickly squashed the urge to go and strangle the Muggles who had brought Harry up.

[Want to try some?] Draco asked.

[Thanks, but no, I fancy that scrambled egg,] Harry replied.

"Remus is far too polite to say," Sirius said, "but I know for a fact his favourite ever breakfast is Eggs Benedict."

"Sirius," Remus hissed under his breath.

Draco shared a grin with Sirius, it seemed they both had bashful boyfriends to deal with.

"Well then we shall have to have some," his mum said. "I have to admit it's my favourite as well, but other members of the family disapproved."

No one needed to say who. His mum rang the bell again and Fossy appeared by her side.

"Eggs Benedict for myself and Mr Lupin, please Fossy," his mum said.

"Thank you, Mistress Malfoy," Fossy said, "the kitchen elves will be much excited. It is being one of their favourites."

"I am very glad to hear it," his mum said and Fossy vanished with a curtsy. "Shall I be mother?" she asked, standing and reaching for the drinks.

Harry went for tea, but Draco went for coffee with lots of cream and a little sugar. For many years when he was a boy the coffee pot had been a mystical thing he was not allowed to touch or have a drink from. Hence, once he had been permitted to have coffee it had become something of a personal tradition.

"Remus," his mum said when everyone was served and digging in, "I understand you have started working for a non-profit organisation to assist magical creatures and beings in distress. How is that going?"

"As well as can be expected, thank you," Remus replied, clearly a little surprised to be part of the topic of conversation. "We're in the process of raising funding for our first shelter."

"When did you start doing this?" Harry asked, forkful of scrambled eggs apparently forgotten.

"I've been thinking about joining AMCAB for a while," Remus said with a small smile, "and I finally did in November. It's a very small enterprise at the moment, but we hope to grow."

"Let us know if we can help," Harry said, and Draco couldn't help smiling.

Of course Harry would jump in with both feet.

"Thank you," Remus said, "but we're still negotiating licences for the premises at the moment."

"With Marius Knatchbool's department?" his mum asked.

Remus nodded just before taking a sip of his tea.

"It's been ages since I spoke to Simone, his lovely wife," his mum continued. "I think it might be time I invited her over for tea."

From the look of it that shocked Remus even more. Draco couldn't blame him, most of the Wizarding world was horribly prejudiced when it came to magical creatures and beings. He had been one of them, after all. It seemed his mother had turned the same corner he had and was prepared to do something about it.

"I'm sure we can have all this red tape sorted out without too much bother," his mum said with a completely innocent smile.

"Thank you," Remus said, "that would be a great help."

"Not at all," his mum replied, "it's what one does for family."

[I'm beginning to really love your mum,] Harry said and that cemented what a wonderful day it was going to be for Draco.

Chapter Text

After breakfast had been presents in the drawing room. Then they had all played games, some of which Harry had never heard of, but had enjoyed immensely. They had had a snack for lunch, then sat around talking and, at about two thirty, Narcissa had excused herself to go and get ready for dinner. Draco had dragged Harry off at three and it was now half past and everyone was back downstairs.

Harry had let himself be arranged in the drawing room while they awaited the new guests. He could tell Narcissa was a little nervous about what was to come and so he played the perfect partner to the prodigal son. The fact that Narcissa was trying to build bridges with the disowned member of her family spoke volumes to how much had changed. Harry only hoped it went well.

It wasn't long before Fossy appeared in the doorway.

"Auror Nymphadora Tonks," the elf said in her high squeaky voice and then stepped out of the way.

Harry couldn't help grinning as Tonks stepped into the room. Her hair was as pale as the Malfoys with a red and green streak down one side. She was wearing a very smart, knee length dress, which was rather out done by the red and white candy striped tights she was wearing underneath it. Her shoes were flat pumps, which, with what Harry knew of Tonks, was probably a very good thing.

"Aunt Narcissa," she greeted with a smile, "thanks for the invitation."

As she walked towards Narcissa she almost tripped over the carpet, only correcting at the very last moment.

"I'm so glad you could come," Narcissa said as the two went through the ritual of cheek kissing.

It was a little stilted, but Harry could tell both women were trying. Tonks then produced what looked like a box of chocolates from somewhere that Harry had not noticed and gave it to Narcissa.

"Thank you," Narcissa said, "ah, Honeyduke's Special Collection; you clearly know my weaknesses."

[Must have talked to Aunt Andromeda,] Draco commented, [those are mum's favourite.]

[Why do you never tell me these things?] Harry bemoaned and Draco mentally laughed at him.

"Wotcher, Boys," Tonks greeted as she turned to the rest of the room, "not been getting into any trouble I hope."

"Us?" Harry asked. "Now why would you think that?"

Sirius laughed loudly.

"And Cousin Sirius," Tonks said, "my, don't you clean up well. Wotcher, Remus."

Then she plonked herself down on the sofa next to Remus and accepted a glass of champagne from the house elf with the tray, which she promptly almost dropped. It seemed when Tonks was nervous she was even more clumsy than usual.

"So did everyone get what they wanted from Father Christmas?" she asked with a bright grin.

"Well Remus didn't wrap himself with a bow..." Sirius started to say and Remus promptly hit him.

"So sorry," Remus apologise, "he's been dead for two years and it does strange things to the brain."

Sirius looked scandalised and everyone else laughed, which broke the ice nicely.

Next to arrive was Snape, who swept into the room looking impeccably turned out in all black as usual. His only nod to the season was a sprig of holly on his lapel.

"Narcissa," he greeted, taking her hand and kissing her fingers, "thank you for inviting me."

He had brought an odd shaped black bottle, sealed at the top with something gold, which he gave to Narcissa.

"Thank you so very much, Severus," Narcissa said as she held up the bottle, "this will go down very nicely after dinner."

[What is it?] Harry asked.

It really was useful to be able to ask all the stupid questions silently.

[Very nice herbal liqueur,] Draco replied, [made by monks in the south of France. You'll have to try a little bit later, it really is good.]

Harry had never really seen Snape in any environment where the man didn't look at least a little tense, but it seemed he was at ease in the Malfoy drawing room. He couldn't help wondering how many times Snape had been there and for what reasons in the past.

Snape even greeted them all politely before accepting a drink, definitely not champagne, from a house elf. Clearly he had been there enough that his preferences were known. The fact that the house would most likely have been a venue for Death Eater meetings more than once was not something Harry wanted to think about.

"Oh my, isn't this lovely," were the first words Hilde uttered when she arrived several minutes later. "So lovely to meet you again, Mrs Malfoy," she said as she crossed the room.

Harry had to wonder when the two had met before.

The pair did some very continental air kissing before Hilde produced her gift. Harry was getting the message that it was traditional not to turn up empty handed and food or drink seemed to be the preference. It wasn't as if Harry had ever been particularly up on social etiquette, in the Muggle or Wizarding worlds. Hilde had brought a bottle of what Harry guessed was wine.

"Oh, you shouldn't have," Narcissa said and seemed to genuinely mean it, "I will have this put on ice immediately."

"Don't be silly," Hilde said, "I raided Dad's old wine cellar. It's not like anyone uses it since he died. It was nice to have an excuse."

Harry had never really thought of Hilde as anything except a lovely woman from the Ministry, but she was clearly as pureblooded as most of the rest of the room, given the way she was dressed. While not as elegant as Narcissa, Hilde fitted right in.

"Ooh, bubbles," she said when offered a glass. "I do hope I wasn't too late," she added as she sat down, "the Floo network gets so busy at this time of year."

"Of course not," Draco said, "you are perfectly on time."

"As always," Harry added. "How has your Christmas been so far?"

"Well I went up to visit my Gran in her nursing home this morning, helped out with all the oldies," Hilde said. "We do our own family Christmas tomorrow when she doesn't have to work."

"Your Gran works in a nursing home?" Harry couldn't help it, he had to ask.

"Owns and runs," it was Narcissa who answered; "Morgana Hall, the foremost home for elderly witches and wizards who wish to enjoy their dotage."

"Granny Lux always has loved looking after people," Hilde said, "and she took it over just after the second world war when the previous owner, Mrs Pinkerton, died. I get roped in to play Christmas games all morning every year. You would not believe how spritely some of the oldies are, even if a few of them are losing their marbles."

The mental image of Hilde being chased around by an aged wizard in a game of Blind Mans Buff made Harry smile.

It was another five minutes or so when Fossy reappeared to introduce the final guests.

"Mr and Mrs Edward Tonks," she announced and then stepped out of the doorway.

Where Narcissa's hair was pale, Andromeda's was brown, but there was no doubting they were sisters; both tall, both striking. Andromeda also bore a stunning resemblance to Bellatrix, although her face was very much kinder and she smiled as soon as she saw Narcissa.

"Oh, Cissa," she said and all but rushed across the room, "it has been far too long."

The sisters embraced and Harry couldn't help himself, he lowered his mental barriers just a little. Gold tinged everything around the them as the estranged women reunited.

"I have missed you, Dromie," Narcissa said. "I am so sorry I did not break away before."

"We all had our roads," Andromeda said, pulling back, tears clearly glinting in her eyes. "Come here, Ted, you must meet my little sister."

Imagining Narcissa as anyone's little sister wasn't something Harry could quite manage.

"Very pleased to meet you," Ted said and there was a little stiffness there; it was clear Ted was not quite as forgiving as his wife.

"And I you," Narcissa replied. "Please, make yourselves comfortable and I will introduce you to everyone you don't know."

The couple took seats on the second sofa and accepted drinks.

"This is my son Draco and his soulmate Harry," Narcissa introduced as if the whole world didn't know that, "Remus Lupin and of course you know Cousin Sirius and Dora, but I'm not sure if you've met Severus before. Everyone, my sister Andromeda and her husband Ted."

"Nice to meet you," Draco said, the epitome of the polite Slytherin.

Harry flashed his soulmate a mental image of what he had seen when Narcissa and Andromeda met, just to make sure Draco knew how genuine the reunion was.

[It's not Aunt Andromeda I'm worried about,] was all Draco said.

Harry just hoped dinner would go smoothly.

* * *

The previous afternoon and evening had gone surprisingly well, so much so that everyone had stayed except Snape and Hilde, who had taken their leave late in the evening. The liqueur that Snape had brought had indeed been lovely, but Harry had stopped himself from having more than a taste because he hadn't wanted to do anything silly like blow up all the icicles on the stairs or such like.

When he woke up on Boxing Day it was still dark outside. The room was all shapes of black and grey in the darkness and slight reds and pinks over where the fire was glowing in the grate. The bed was warm, Harry was comfortable and Draco was sprawled on his front next to him, making the most delightful little snoring noises. Harry simply had to smile into the gloom.

The only blip in the whole of the previous day was Ted, even Snape had gone out of his way to be pleasant. It wasn't that Ted was ever nasty, it was just there was clearly something bothering the man. He seemed to be struggling with his clearly buoyant personality, which he must have passed on to his daughter, when it came to matters that concerned Malfoys.

Harry decided there and then to have a quiet word at some point today, before anything got out of hand.

That settled, he snuggled further down in the bed, turned on his side and reached out to gently squeeze Draco's bottom. His soulmate mumbled something, but didn't move, so he did it again.

[Too early,] Draco's sleepy mental voice said.

[Are you sure?] Harry asked and flashed a rather salacious mental image at Draco.

Draco groaned, but finally lifted his head.

[You want to defile my childhood bedroom?] Draco asked as if this was an affront to his dignity.

So far they had done nothing in the room except sleep. The bathroom was a whole other matter, but Draco hadn't seemed remotely worried about that.

"Definitely," Harry said aloud, "and I'm pretty sure you do too."

"Sometimes I hate you," Draco said, slamming his face back into the pillow, but Harry could hear the lie. "I'm never going to be able to look at Dragie again."

Dragie was Draco's stuffed dragon that had been sitting proudly in the middle of the bed when they had first arrived. Draco had had to beg his mother not to tell any embarrassing stories about the toy, which, when stroked along the back scales belched out sweet smelling smoke. Some day Harry was going to get those stories out of Draco's mum, and now that he knew of her weakness for Honeyduke's chocolates, he was pretty sure he had a method.

Chapter Text

The whole of the Weasley clan arrived via Floo en masse, including Percy, at eleven am precisely. They were all turned out in their Sunday bests and even Ron had his hair brushed. Harry was pleased to see that he wasn't the only one to react to the decoration with jaw dropping awe. At least half of Molly and Arthur's brood did the same. The only one apparently unaffected was Bill, but then he had Fleur on his arm and seemed terribly wrapped up in her.

"Good morning and happy Christmas everyone," Narcissa greeted, "we are so pleased you could come."

"Thank you so much for inviting us, Narcissa," Arthur replied for his family.

"It was such a lovely surprise," Molly added.

"I'm so glad it wasn't too late notice," Narcissa said, stepping forward and greeting first Arthur and then Molly properly. "Finishing the protections was so fraught I was afraid they wouldn't be done."

"And it's so important to get these things right," Molly agreed and presented Narcissa with a huge covered basket after she had kissed both her cheeks.

Harry did his best not to feel guilty that a lot of the extra precautions were probably because of him. Of course it didn't quite work.

[Idiot Gryffindor,] was Draco's only comment on that.

"Oh, Molly," Narcissa said as she peaked under the cloth, "you shouldn't have. These look wonderful. I will have the house elves give them pride of place on the lunch table."

"Oh, you don't have to do that," Molly replied, clearly very pleased with Narcissa's reaction.

"Of course we must," Narcissa insisted, "I have heard so many good things about your cooking. I always wished that I had the knack, but baking is not one of my skills. The only Malfoy who ever showed any promise was Draco."

That surprised Harry.

"The only thing I cook is potions, Mum," Draco said.

"Ah, but not when you were small," Narcissa said, smiling at the memory. "Many was the time I found you in the kitchens covered in flour and bothering the house elves."

"Really?" Draco asked. "I don't remember that."

"You always had such fun mixing things together," Narcissa told him in a very fond tone. "Unfortunately your grandmother disapproved and so a certain person forbade you to continue. He did, however, buy you your first junior potions kit. The rest, shall we say, is history."

"I don't suppose you have any photographic evidence of the flour covered escapades do you?" Harry asked in a bid to distract everyone from the fact Lucius had just been alluded to.

"You know," Narcissa said, tapping her chin thoughtfully, "I may have one or two."

"Mum," Draco warned and his mother just smiled sweetly.

"Anyway, that is for later," she said, turning back to her guests, "please, everyone, come into the sitting room so I may make introductions."

[Here we go,] Draco said as Harry manoeuvred them close to Ron and Ginny.

"This place it amazing," Ginny whispered as the family dutifully followed Narcissa.

"It is isn't it," Harry agreed. "I'm sure I spent hours just gawping."

"I've only seen icicles like that in Diagon Alley," Ron commented as they walked past the bottom of the stairs.

[Go on,] Draco told Harry, [I know you want to.]

Harry grinned and put his hand out to touch the bottom icicle. He pushed the tiniest bit of magic into the chain, as he now had done just about every time they went up or down the stairs, and set the whole lot to tinkling and glowing. Much to his embarrassment everyone turned to watch.

"I've never seen any that do that before," Percy commented, "not even at the Ministry."

"They don't without a Harry," Narcissa said, winking at him as she smiled.

He hoped he wasn't going bright red.

"Sorry," he said.

"Don't be sorry, Harry," Narcissa assured him, "it is lovely."

"If you tell us how you do it, Harry," Fred said.

"We could make a fortune," George finished.

That made everyone laugh. It was turning out to be another very good day.

* * *

Dinner was over. There had been cold meats, hot meats, all sorts of vegetables, pickles, cheese, a plethora of breads and pride of place had been given to what turned out to be savoury pastries that Molly had made. The food at Malfoy Manor was excellent, but Harry had to admit, Molly's cooking put even House elves to shame.

Then there had been more dessert and, frankly, Harry had eaten far too much.

The party had now moved to the drawing room. Everyone was sitting or standing around, talking and Harry was simply enjoying the atmosphere. Nearly everyone he considered family was in the same room and he was having a great time. It was a shame Hermione and her parents had had other plans.

"Hey, Harry," Fred said.

"We've had some ideas about that thing you asked us about," George said.

"We should get..."

"...together soon to talk about it."

"Brilliant," Harry replied, "thanks. It can be done, right?"

"Oh definitely," Fred said.

"Awesome," Harry said.

"Stuffy brother at two o'clock," George whispered as Percy wandered over.

"Hello, Harry," Percy greeted, "had a good Christmas?"

"Yeah," Harry said, "so different than at the Burrow," he leant in conspiratorially, "a bit stuffier," he said in a whisper, "but fun."

[I heard that,] Draco said from where he was talking with Charlie.

[I know,] Harry replied, completely unrepentantly.

"More food too," George said with a laugh, "which I thought was impossible."

Harry had to agree, lunch had been quite astonishing, even after the previous day.

It was as he looked around to see if there were any of the chocolates the house elves had been passing round left when he saw Sirius, Remus and Tonks standing rather close together and talking over to one side. His immediate thought was Marauders teaming up with an Auror could not be good news. Just in case, he lowered his mental barriers and froze.

What he was seeing really didn't make a whole lot of sense. There were golds and a hell of a lot of pink, which was almost lust, but not quite and it was swirling round all three of them. Harry slammed his barriers back up and pointedly decided he did not want to know.

[Everything alright?] Draco asked.

[Fine,] he replied, [just don't ask, you really don't want to know.]

[Well you're not running towards whatever it is so it can't be that bad,] his soulmate replied, walking towards him anyway. [You will tell me later though.]

[Probably,] Harry agreed and snagged one of the chocolates he had been looking for as one of the house elves offered them to him. "Thank you," he said and received a beaming smile in return.

"You're going to explode," Draco commented, out loud this time.

"I can't help it, these are so good," Harry said.

He had eaten enough food for at least two people.

"Anyway, I have been reliably informed that that's what Christmas is all about," he added and grinned. "The house elves at Hogwarts started the tradition when I was eleven and the Weasleys continued it, now your mum is carrying it on."

A momentary flash of something came at him from Draco, but it was so fast he missed it.

[What did I say?] he asked, because he was pretty sure it hadn't been a good emotion he had felt.

He really hoped he hadn't put his foot in it. Not that he could think how he could have managed that on the subject of food.

[You didn't say anything,] Draco tried to reassure him, but they couldn't lie to each other worth a damn.

[Yes I did,] he replied, [I didn't mean to upset you. I'm sorry.]

[You didn't upset me,] Draco said, placing a hand on his arm and projecting love and warmth at him, [it's just I get protective.]

Harry frowned. He wasn't following.

[It shouldn't have started at eleven, Love,] Draco finally enlightened him. [Whenever I realise that anything good in your life started then, I have to squash the homicidal urges I inherited from certain members of my family.]

[Oh.] That was about all he could think of to say. [Sorry.]

[You have nothing to apologise for,] was the very firm response to that. [Molly Weasley at eleven o'clock, duck behind me if you want to avoid another hug.]

No one at the gathering had had too much to drink, but it seemed Molly was even more touchy feely than usual when she had had a sherry or two. Harry took the out for what it was and smoothly moved between Draco and the fireplace. They both had such emotional baggage, but he refused to dwell on it at Christmas. Their damaged childhoods could wait for another day.

* * *

The Weasleys had departed just as they had arrived, en masse. There had been silly games, like charades and blind man's bluff, both wizard style of course, and then yet more food at tea time before Harry's surrogate family had made noises about returning to their own home. It had been a fun day, but Harry was quite glad they were gone; they were a very full on bunch. Being at Malfoy Manor had just made them more so.

"What an extraordinary family," Narcissa said as they all retired to the parlour with drinks; "not what I had been led to believe at all."

"It's never good to believe everything you're told," Ted said, just a little too forcibly.

[Here it comes,] Draco said.

Narcissa looked at her brother-in-law for a moment and then took a sip of her drink.

"That is something I have come to realise," she said, much to Ted's apparent shock. "I fear I have missed a great deal in my life because I made the grave mistake of playing the role my parents dictated for me."

Ted was silent for a little while. Harry was sure he was considering if he wanted to continue the conversation.

[Should we do something?] he asked Draco.

[Let Mum handle it,] was the short reply.

"Then everything is all your parent's fault?" Ted finally said.

Now Narcissa smiled.

"That would be far too easy," she replied. "I acknowledge my own blame in the matter, but some of us are less of an independent spirit than others."

"Ted," Andromeda said, placing her hand on her husband's arm, "we talked about this."

"I'm sorry, Love," he said, "it just seems unfair that you're supposed to forgive and forget after everything and all these years."

"But I want to," Andromeda replied with a sad little smile. "This is what I've been dreaming of for so long."

"Ted," Narcissa said, "I am well aware of what I need to make up for. Please allow me to assure you this is only a beginning."

"It takes time to break away from the mould," Draco added quietly.

Harry squeezed Draco's hand gently in support. He knew quite how hard it was to remake yourself, he had seen Draco do it up close and personal.

The way Ted looked between mother and son he really didn't seem to know how to react.

"It's Christmas, Dad," Tonks said from where she had been talking with Sirius and Remus, again, "believe in the season if you can't believe in anything else yet."

Ted frowned, but then nodded. Not all adjustments could be made overnight, that much was clear and Andromeda gave her sister a small smile.

"Anyone fancy a game of billiards?" Sirius asked before the silence could become awkward.

[What's billiards?] Harry asked silently.

It wasn't something he had come across in the Muggle or the Wizarding world before.

[Like snooker only with more skill,] Draco replied, [especially the way we play it.]

"How about Harry and I against you and Remus?" Draco offered, much to Harry's growing concern.

[I don't even know how to play,] he complained.

[I'll show you,] Draco assured him, [it's easy.]

"I can't play to save my life," Remus bowed out gracefully, "you'll need another partner for this, Sirius."

Sirius looked to Tonks, who just burst out laughing.

"Yeah, no," she said.

"Ted's a pretty dab hand with a cue," Andromeda said. "How about it, Darling?"

"Well it's been a while," Ted said, but there was something of a glint in his eyes.

[Merlin's beard,] Draco said, even as Harry decided he was willing to be humiliated at the game if Ted was showing that amount of interest, [I do believe your godfather already knew that. That's almost Slytherin of him.]

[Tonks must have mentioned it,] Harry concluded. [See there is hope for my house, a faint hope maybe, but definitely hope.]

He smiled when Draco looked at him for that comment. Boxing Day was back on track after all. He'd worry about the coming new year later.

Chapter Text

Draco and Harry had returned to Hogwarts the day after Boxing Day because they were still catching up on all they had missed after raising Sirius. Most of the other members of staff had returned by New Year, so there was an impromptu party in the Great Hall, instigated by Dumbledore himself. Then, before Harry realised it, it was time for term to begin again.

This time he made sure he and Draco were with the others on the train to escort the pupils back. He saw a familiar face on the platform that surprised him, even though afterwards he remembered that it shouldn't have done.

[Blaise,] he told Draco silently as they watched most of the school boarding the Hogwarts Express.

[Albus said they were hoping he was going to be cleared to come back this term,] Draco replied.

[They must finally have given him the all clear over Christmas,] Harry said, trying to catch Blaise's eye.

He wanted to assure the other boy that there were no hard feelings, after all it hadn't been Blaise's fault he had been used. However, the subdued Slytherin was quite obviously deliberately not looking anywhere near Harry at all.

In fact, in the end, Blaise managed to get on the train and just about vanish. At least, Harry didn't see him again until the platform at the other end. If he hadn't been dealing with a first year who was crying his eyes out, having lost his wand already, Harry would have cornered Blaise on the way to the carriages. As it was, by the time they found the wand stuck down the side of a seat (it had been far easier since Harry could see it's magical signature) Blaise was long gone.

As they made sure all the pupils were safely on their way to the castle, Harry resigned himself to having to talk to Blaise at a later date.

[It's not like he can go anywhere,] Draco assured him.

[I just want to clear the air as soon as possible,] Harry replied.

[And I'm sure you will,] Draco told him. [Wayward scarf at three o'clock.]

It was quite blustery on the platform and the Slytherin-coloured scarf managed to whack him right in the face. Draco found it highly amusing.

* * *

The first dinner of term was as noisy as ever, but so far nothing disastrous had happened, which Draco counted as a win. He hadn't been expecting any deliveries, but, as the evening owls arrived, one headed straight for him. He and Harry were sitting at their usual places at the second high table when his mother's familiar bird swooped down and delivered its letter. There were never as many owls arriving for the evening post as there were in the morning, but the occurrence was common place enough so that no one took any notice.

"Hello, Persius," Harry greeted and fed the owl a chunk of beef off his plate.

The bird hooted and nibbled at the offering as he stuck his leg out and offered the letter to Draco, but otherwise ignored him.

[You spoil that creature,] Draco gave his concise opinion to his soulmate.

It really was unseemly the way Harry cooed over anything remotely fluffy in nature, but as Harry beamed at him and tickled the once aloof owl under the chin, Draco had to admit that it was kind of cute. When he realised he had thought this he seriously considered obliviating himself. Shaking his head to clear it of the Gryffindorish thoughts, he opened his mother's letter and began to read.

The first paragraph was perfectly normal; his mother sent her love and enquired after both himself and Harry, even though she had only seen the previous week. It was the second paragraph that made him go cold.

I went to see your father today.

Those few words were enough to make him freeze and just stare at the paper; Harry's non-verbal, but never the less, concerned enquiry followed very quickly after this. Last time Draco had spoken to his mother about Lucius he had been very clear that he wanted nothing to do with the man ever again, and he had thought that Narcissa was of the same opinion. It felt almost like a betrayal that she had chosen to write about him, let alone that she had gone to see him, whether he was in a coma or not.

The doctors at St Mungo's contacted me and requested that I go. As you know Lucius has been unconscious since Harry returned the Killing curse to him, and the healers have been unable to isolate the magic which appears to be moving through his system. They wished me to witness what was occurring, and I feel that it is important enough to make you and Harry aware of it. The dark mark is disappearing from your father's arm. From what they have told me the healers noticed it was fading just before Christmas, and when they showed it to me it was nothing but a ghostly reminder, even paler than when He Who Must Not Be Named fell the first time.

I do not know what this means, and neither do the healers, but the Ministry has been made aware and they may wish to speak to Harry at some point. They have concluded that whatever the magic was by the time it hit your father, it is now causing this effect. I am sorry to have to bring up Lucius, Draco, because I know that what he became was monstrous, but I believe this deserves your attention, if for no other reason than to understand how this is possible.

The rest was just normal platitudes and goodbyes and Draco did not really see it. This news was too strange to allow his mind onto such mundane things and he looked over to where Harry was watching him with a worried frown above his anxious green eyes.

[Voldemort's mark is fading from Lucius' arm,] he explained with a calm that belied the feelings trying to make their way to the surface of his mind. [The healers believe it is the magic you sent back at him doing it, but they don't know how or why.]

[But the dark mark is supposed to be impervious to all magic except Voldemort's own,] Harry replied, his confusion obvious. [It's a bond mark and they're not supposed to fade completely even if the Master in the bond dies.]

[I know,] Draco agreed, trying his best to fight the threatening turmoil the revelation brought with it, [but the Killing curse is also supposed to be unstoppable, and you've already proven that wrong.]

Persius took off, since he was being ignored by both of them, and Draco watched the bird leave as he attempted to come to grips with the possibilities which branched before them. Something in the magic Harry had sent at Lucius was the only possible explanation, on that point he agreed with the healers, but what exactly it was doing and why, he had no idea. He was so lost in his own thoughts that it was not until Harry covered his hand with his own that Draco felt the faint guilt and trepidation that was under-running whatever else Harry was feeling.

If he had been thinking clearly he would have noticed it before, and now that he knew it was there he could not ignore it. When he looked at Harry, for the first time since they had bonded he saw a shadow of secrecy there, and a desperate need; something was praying on his soulmate's mind.

[Harry,] Draco said slowly, unused to the feeling of not knowing, [is there something you haven't told me.]

[I...] Harry's mental voice was so confused, that for a moment Draco completely forgot the letter and his mother's revelation, [I forgot,] his soulmate confessed. [I think I blocked it out, but now I remember.]

The pallid colour of Harry's cheeks and the guilt in his lover's eyes brought Draco to a very swift decision.

[We need to talk away from here,] he said firmly, [let me deal with the others.]

He did not give Harry time to agree or disagree, but he felt no disparity coming from his soulmate as he took charge.

"I have to speak to my mother," Draco said aloud as he looked at the now, somewhat concerned faces of their friends. "There are certain arrangements that need to be made concerning Lucius."

Several pairs of eyes opened at that and the small lie seemed to have explained Harry's reaction to those sitting with them. Draco did need to speak to his mother at some point, but that was not why he placed his napkin on the table and stood, drawing his soulmate with him.

[It's okay, love,] he said protectively, much calmer now that he had a problem to deal with; [whatever it is, we'll sort it out.]

* * *

Only once the privacy wards were engaged did Draco finally turn to Harry and ask: "What is it?"

When he and Draco had talked about the Dark Mark and Lucius it had all come flooding back for Harry. There was so much about the time after Draco had been kidnapped that was something of a blur, but this memory had come into sharp relief.

"Lucius' Dark Mark isn't the only one I have affected," was the only way he could think to start.

Draco sat down beside him on the bed.

"What do you mean?"

"Snape," he said.

He found it hard to even share the information with Draco. Technically he could have just shared the memory directly with his soulmate, but somehow, he couldn't bring himself to do it.

"What about Snape," Draco prompted gently.

"When ... when you were taken," it was still hard to talk about the whole thing, "I was angry, so very, very angry and Snape pushed me at the wrong moment. I made his Dark Mark burn."

"How?" The question was simple and practical.

"I was furious and I wanted to hurt him," he explained, "and, right then, all I could see was a Death Eater. I projected a thought of Voldemort at him and his mark burned."

"Incredible," was not exactly the reaction Harry expected.

"That's all you can say, 'incredible'?" he asked. "Draco, that's dark magic."

"Bollocks," Draco said in a fair imitation of Ron, "that was you tapping into the connection you have with his Royal Snakiness himself."

Harry blinked.

"His Royal Snakiness?"

"It's better than The Dark Lord," Draco replied, "it takes away the mystique."

It definitely did that.

"Look, we know you've been connected to him since he tried to kill you as a baby, you have your own mark right there," Draco pointed at his scar. "What you did was beat him at his own game while you were angrier than a broody dragon. Now show me exactly what you did so we can analyse it, just in case it might come in useful at a later date."

"It's not dark?"

That had been the thing that had frightened Harry the most.

"Silly Gryffindor," was the only way Draco replied to that.

The memory was still not a pleasant one, but with Draco's dismissal of his worry, he began to relax a little. He wasn't comfortable as he drew everything he could remember together, but he did slowly begin to share it. He could live without ever remembering he was connected to Voldemort, but if anyone could find a use for it, it would be Draco.

Chapter Text

The first day had been fairly uneventful as far as Draco was concerned. There had only been two exploding cauldrons, and Harry's day seemed to have passed without even such trifles to bother him. That was why Draco was in an almost buoyant mood as they sat in the Room of Requirement waiting for Hilde to arrive for their weekly training session. The bubbly woman had been on holiday down in Cornwall since her visit on Boxing Day, and Draco hated to admit it, but he had started to look forward to her company.

The Slytherin in him would say it was because she helped Harry almost every time they saw her, but the part that had given up and admitted that he was picking up Gryffindor traits had to admit she was also fun to be around. Hilde was definitely a Hufflepuff, so her sense of humour required some warping, but Draco was working on that.

"She should be here by now," Harry said suddenly, from where he was wandering around the room.

When Draco looked up there was a frown on Harry's face, and he could feel the undercurrent of worry that had wormed its way into Harry's mind. Since Harry had been in as cheerful a mood as Draco only a few moments before, he knew that there was more to this than simple anxiety.

"What did you do?" he asked simply.

"I just touched the oath bond," Harry replied, walking over as he did so. "I do it occasionally when Hilde is here; you must have felt me at some point."

Draco nodded, he had felt Harry reach out every now and then, it seemed to be something of an unconscious action on Harry's part, but he had not been paying attention for the latest one.

"She's not close," Harry continued, looking very much perplexed, "but she should be by now. She's already half an hour late."

"Maybe she was delayed coming back from Cornwall," Draco offered, but something about the way Harry was reacting made him sceptical about that possibility.

Harry thought about that, but then shook his head.

"You know Hilde, Draco," he said, worry clearly evident in his voice, "she would have sent a message. Something must have happened."

It was not unknown for Harry to overreact to some situations, but if there was one thing Draco knew, it was his soulmate usually had a good reason for reacting in the first place.

"Can you do any more with the oath bond?" he asked, trying to look at the whole situation more rationally.

"I don't know," Harry admitted with a shrug, "I've never tried. There is just a faint connection between us whenever she is at Hogwarts."

Draco was beginning to regret that there was little information on the limits and applications of the oath, other than its protection application. Everything written about it concentrated on the benefits to the Hecatemus rather than if there was anything going back the other way.

"Okay," he decided, "then we have to make it up as we go along. Come and sit down."

Harry did as he was told and Draco stood, moving in front of his soulmate and resting his hands on Harry's shoulders.

"I know it's not the same as our bond," he said, "but see if you can use it in a similar way. If there is a connection between you when she is here, there must be a connection all the time, it's just too faint for you to feel it. See if you can find it."

With a nod Harry shut his eyes and a familiar look of concentration crossed his features. It never ceased to amaze Draco how, at times such as these, Harry would do exactly as he was told. It also surprised him that he always seemed to have an idea about what to do, as if instinct kicked in whenever he needed it.

Shutting his eyes as well, Draco firmed his presence in Harry's mind and leant his soulmate all his support as Harry lowered his mental barriers and reached out with his very powerful mind. For what seemed like a long time they stayed that way, Harry's thoughts distant and searching as Draco held them, grounded to the here and now. When Harry finally came back to himself, all Draco could feel was the worry coming from him.

"She's there," Harry said, his voice tinged with anxiety, "but I can't tell where ... and it doesn't feel right. Something's wrong, Draco. What if she's hurt?"

"Then we'll make sure she's found and healed," Draco replied in a tone which he hoped begged no argument.

He was not about to let Harry worry himself sick about this. He did not voice what the Slytherin core of his mind suggested, because he really did not believe it, but the seed still sat at the back of his mind. What if the wrongness was Hilde circumventing the protections the oath gave; what if she was a threat to Harry? It was a small thought, and one he knew would never occur to his Gryffindor soulmate, but there was a reason he was the protector and a Slytherin.

"We should go to Dumbledore and tell him," Draco decided, pushing his suspicions to the back of his mind for now. "He may give us a lemon drop and tell us we are worrying over nothing and that Hilde called him to cancel, we just didn't get the message."

The expression on Harry's face was decidedly unconvinced, but he nodded anyway and Draco took his hand before heading for the door.

* * *

Unfortunately Dumbledore had not been able to tell them that everything was perfectly alright and they were worrying over nothing. He had also told them that Professor Snape had been summoned to a Death Eater meeting only an hour before. Which was why Draco was sitting up, trying not the think too loudly after successfully tiring Harry out enough so that Harry had fallen asleep.

What was keeping Draco awake was not the worry he felt for Hilde, but the nagging suspicion that would not leave him be. He did not want to think badly of the woman, but he knew Harry never would and hence he had to. There had been no reported Death Eater attacks anywhere, and yet Hilde had disappeared and Snape had been called. Draco did not like coincidences.

He could not see how she could betray them since they had researched the oath and had found no loop holes, but the doubt was there and Draco could not sleep. What if he had missed something? What if there was a way round the oath? What if Hilde was not what she appeared to be at all?

Sorting through every memory of her he tried to find anything, any sign of falsehood. He had to be sure.

Draco was contemplating climbing out of bed and walking around the room, when he felt something from Harry. He turned to his sleeping soulmate immediately to see a small frown on Harry's forehead. For a moment he thought it might be a nightmare brought on by the stress of Hilde's disappearance, but as he tried to ease himself into the bond between them it soon became clear that it was not a simple dream.

There was a voice calling; a woman's voice, begging for help, and it took him only a moment to realise that it was Hilde. Before Draco could even try to understand what was happening he was thrown back to complete outside awareness as Harry sat bolt upright in bed.

"The Vassal calls," Harry's voice was tinged with power and resonated around the room.

As Draco stared at Harry he was torn between wonder and horror; Harry's eyes were actually glowing from the inside, and Harry did not seem to see him at all.

"I must protect the Vassal," Harry declared and went to climb out of bed.

There was no way Draco was letting Harry go anywhere in the state he was in. He did the first thing that came to mind: he lunged at Harry and pinned his soulmate to the bed with his whole body weight.

"[Harry, snap out of it,]" he demanded on a mental and physical level.

For a moment Harry struggled underneath him, but as Draco forced his mind into his soulmate's, Harry finally went limp, breathing hard, but making no further move to resist. Then and only then did Draco dare give Harry some room. When he pulled back he found confused and anxious green eyes looking up at him, thankfully without the glow.

"They're trying to break the oath spell," Harry said in a very quiet voice.

Sitting back, Draco pulled Harry up from the bed into his arms, comforting his obviously distressed soulmate.

"What did you see?" he asked, needing to understand.

"It was just a flash," Harry told him, arms like a vice around him, "but for a moment I saw through her eyes. The Death Eaters have her, Draco; I saw them."

"And how do you know they are trying to break the oath spell?" Draco prompted slowly.

The way Harry had reacted had frightened him more than he cared to admit. If Harry had really wanted to leave, Draco was not sure there was any way he could have stopped him, and that the whole plan was to lure Harry to his death was not an idea Draco liked at all.

"I felt it," his lover replied. "It was a curse I think, but the oath spell held."

"Show me, love," Draco said, pulling Harry closer. "I need to know."

The images and sensations that flashed through his mind lasted only a moment, but Draco understood in that short time why Harry had reacted so forcefully, although he could not explain the eyes or the voice. Hilde was terrified, angry, desperate for help and surrounded by Death Eaters. The oath bond had flexed under their combined onslaught, but it had held.

"We have to wake the headmaster," Draco decided quickly. "The Order has to find her."

* * *

Harry's cocoa had gone cold a good twenty minutes previously, but he still held on to it and stared at the almost untouched drink as if it was one of Professor Trelawney's divining bowls. Draco was sitting next to him, being a paragon of strength and Dumbledore was sitting in his chair, gently stroking Fawkes who was perched on the desk. They were all in their night things, bundled up in robes against the cold, and they had been sitting in silence for a good half hour since the conversation ran out.

It had been a consensus of opinion that none of them were returning to bed after Harry and Draco had woken Dumbledore and explained what had happened. For a while they had all tried to pretend they were not waiting for Snape to return or something else to happen, talking of irrelevant things, but the words had eventually fallen into silence. It was obvious what they were really doing.

Harry had felt nothing further from the oath bond, even when he had tried to use it to trace his friend. It was frustratingly useless. Hilde was alive, that was about all he knew. He was unpleasantly aware that the only time he seemed to get anything more from their tentative link was when something very nasty happened. He was beginning to realise that the oath spell had been well designed to protect the "Liege lord" from betrayal, but it had not been so well designed to act in reverse for the benefit of the "Vassal".

It was a noise from the fireplace which finally shook Harry out of his reverie, and his eyes turned immediately to the source. Only a moment later, Snape stepped into the room, black robe still in place and mask in hand. The Potions master appeared tired and worn, and the moment he laid eyes on Harry he sneered. He and Snape had a peace treaty of sorts, but that did not mean they were pals of any kind. When in a bad mood Snape could still be found to take it out on the son of his school nemesis.

"She is alive and mainly unharmed," the man said without ceremony. "The idiots used some ridiculous curse they were sure would break the woman's connection to you, Potter. The next plan of attack was more brutal, but I arrived in time to prevent most of it. I have them convinced that she must be kept well if they are to try and break the oath bond again."

Harry could not help but wince at Snape's direct tone. He really did not wish to analyse the "most" qualification the Potions master had given about the Death Eaters' activities. He had known the moment Hilde tied herself to him that she had made herself a target, but Voldemort had never focused his efforts even close to her before. It had come so unexpectedly, and it was all his fault.

[She willingly took the risk,] Draco's voice filtered into his mind. [Now we have to find her.]

[And I'm doing such a wonderful job of that as well,] Harry snapped back.

He could not find her and it bothered him more than he could express to anyone except his soulmate.

[You are not omnipotent, Harry,] Draco told him patiently. [The Order will handle this one.]

"Is there any way that Hilde may be retrieved this night, Severus?" the headmaster asked in his usual calm tone.

Harry only had to look at Dumbledore to know that the head of the school was nowhere near as serene as he pretended to be, but that Dumbledore could still maintain the illusion for everyone else was a blessing. It was if Albus Dumbledore's famous calm in the face of all life's troubles slipped that things were very bad.

"I do not know where they have taken her," Snape admitted with a grimace. "I was summoned to Norfolk Lodge, but they were moving from there as the rest of us were dismissed. I have been instructed to formulate a potion to lower her resistance to any other curses they may try. I will be summoned on Sunday."

"But the strength of the oath bond doesn't come from Hilde," Draco pointed out, "it comes from Harry."

Snape appeared unimpressed by the observation.

"I am aware of that, as are all of you," the Potions master said as if speaking to children, "but the Dark Lord is not. The imbeciles who have researched the ritual for him did not have access to certain sources in the Ministry; I suggest we make sure they never do."

It was as Snape was speaking that Harry saw the man sway in place. Up until that moment he had been so worried about Hilde that he had not considered the fact that Snape had just been to a Death Eater meeting, which had probably not been pleasant. Without pausing to think he pulled out his wand and did what he had seen Dumbledore do so many times before; he conjured a chair. Looking over at the headmaster, Harry realised that he had beaten Dumbledore to the draw, since his mentor had his wand in his hand as well. The headmaster gave a nod of acknowledgment and seemed to content himself with summoning a tray of steaming hot chocolate.

"Do sit down, Severus," Dumbledore said in a very fatherly manner, "you must be exhausted."

Snape for his part appeared rather shocked by the sudden influx of concern, but did as he was told anyway. Only once the man was settled did Harry ask the question that was bothering him.

"What happens to her if they realise she is of no use for information?" he said slowly.

"Luckily for Professor Praeceptrix, information was not the primary goal of her capture," Snape revealed as the tray of hot chocolate floated next to him in a very pushy manner. "The Dark Lord has given his minions one week to extract what they can from her, and then she will be used to bait a trap for Mr Potter. I am not privy to the details, but it would be prudent to rescue her before that time."

The Potions master finally took the offered hot chocolate when the tray floated closer to him for the fifth time. Harry was almost too preoccupied to notice the scowl Snape sent at Dumbledore.

"Then I shall call in further members of the Order immediately," Dumbledore said. "However, I believe it would not be prudent to advise the Ministry of our knowledge at this time."

"Leaky ship," Draco commented.

Harry was loathe to agree, he would have preferred as many people on the case as possible, but the Ministry did have a tendency to haemorrhage information. For immediate problems they had their uses, for anything more long term, it was best to play it safe.

"Dammit," he said, "why can't I be more use?"

"Because, My Dear Boy," Dumbledore said before Snape could voice a scathing response, "we are none of us, all seeing."

It was exactly what Draco had told him before, but it didn't help.

"If this is anyone's fault it is mine, I should have made sure Hilde had greater protection," the headmaster added.

"But she's bound to me," Harry snapped back.

"And because of that bond she is still alive," Dumbledore pointed out. "It is quite possible that, had she simply been useful to you and not bound to you, she would have been killed to inconvenience you, rather than kidnapped to trap you."

"It would still be my fault."

"Harry, calm down," Draco said gently, but firmly. "This is the fault of a psychotic megalomaniac, we all just happen to be caught in the middle of it. If anyone can find Hilde it will be the Order."

The words didn't really help, but the love and support Draco sent along with them did. Harry wanted to object, but there didn't seem to be anything else to say. He squeezed Draco's hand and tried not to let his thoughts become any darker.

"Sorry," he apologised.

"Not at all, My Dear Boy," Dumbledore said, "we all understand the desire for action, however, sometimes patience can produce far more useful results. And on that note, I do believe it is time for sleep. None of you can be of assistance with the communiqués I must send, so to bed with all of you. Severus, we will talk more tomorrow."

Snape looked mutinous for all of a second and then simply nodded.

"Are you sure we can't help?" Harry asked.

"Perfectly, Harry, thank you," Dumbledore said. "I will send word immediately should any news return."

Chapter Text

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.

"How?"

"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?]

[No.]

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.

[Hmmm.]

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."

Sirius nodded.

"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.

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.

Chapter Text

Because they had been busy with their own projects, even Draco had missed that certain people had been conspiring. The first either he or Harry knew about it was when Hermione and Ron came to visit them on Sunday evening.

Harry had insisted on working on the Transferers all afternoon and, since his time limit was up, Draco had gone along with it. They were making up the blanks that Fred and George would work on. The plan was, Harry would put the foundation of the spell matrix into the devices, Fred and George would add their security measures and Harry would add the final piece of his part of the spell just before they were allocated to the individuals who would use them.

It was the safest way they could think to go about things.

Then of course they would have to teach people to use them. According to Ron it would take practice to do what Draco and Harry found completely natural.

"We missed you at dinner," Hermione said after the initial greetings.

"We were running late so we nipped into the kitchen," Harry replied. "There weren't any earth shattering announcements were there?"

"Only a missing toad," Ron replied, "and no, it's not Trevor."

"You do realise that everyone has noticed you two are up to something again," Hermione went on.

"Of course," Draco replied, "the Hufflepuff are running a betting pool on what miracle Harry's going to pull off next."

"Isn't that more of a Slytherin thing to do?" Harry asked.

"Everyone trusts Hufflepuffs to be impartial," Draco said and grinned, "and not to run off with their money. I also started a rumour about true love spells and another one about universal healing. It should keep everyone guessing."

"Universal healing?" Harry sounded confused.

"It's one of those Holy Grail type goals," Hermione chipped in. "Healers have been trying to reproduce the effect of Phoenix tears for generations and sounds like just the kind of thing you'd try and do, especially after raising the dead."

"I didn't ..." Harry started to say and then sighed instead. "I get it," he added.

Draco patted him fondly on the arm as Hermione placed a piece of parchment on the table.

"What's this?" Harry asked, looking down.

Scanning it quickly, Draco realised it was a list of names, quite a few very familiar ones.

"All the people who want to take the Hecatemae bond oath, Mate," Ron said very plainly.

Draco was shocked, but realised immediately that he shouldn't have been. He looked at the list again and a large number of the names were Gryffindors and it was a terribly Gryffindor thing to do. Some of the names, however, he had not expected to see.

"That's only for mentors," Harry said and Draco could feel his soulmate's confusion.

"But it protected you and it protected Hilde," Hermione said in a perfectly reasonable tone. "All of us know things about you and Draco and what you're doing, things that could be useful to the Death Eaters. None of us have been targeted yet, but it's only a matter of time. If we take the oath we become useless to them."

Harry opened his mouth and then closed it again, staring down at the list. It was clear he had no idea what to say.

"We don't expect an answer tonight," Ron added, "but think about it okay, Harry?"

"We'll discuss it," Draco said, all too aware Harry was working himself up to completely appalled by the idea.

Draco could see what their friends were getting at, but he wasn't so sure either.

"We'd never force you into anything," Hermione said, "but everyone on the list thinks it's a good idea."

"Thank you," Draco said. "It's a lot to think about."

Hermione gave him a smile and a nod, even as Harry scanned the parchment for the fifth or sixth time.

"Well I have essays to mark," Ron said before the whole situation could become too awkward. "Let us know what you decide when you do."

"See you in the morning," Hermione agreed.

And that was that. As they left Draco waited for the fallout.

* * *

"I am not doing it," Harry said the moment they were alone. "I do not want a personal army. So it might save them from being a target for interrogation, but that won't stop Death Eaters just killing them. It'll make Death Eaters more likely to kill them, in fact, because they will be irrevocably connected to me. No ... just no."

Draco waited for Harry to run out of words.

"I agree," he said and he couldn't help but feel the shock that ran through his soulmate at that.

"You do?"

Harry really was adorable when he was confused.

"Yes," Draco replied, "although only for part of the same reasons as you. We definitely do not want anyone suggesting you are setting yourself up as some sort of ruler even though that's not what this oath does. People will equate it with the Dark Mark and that would be terrible for morale. No matter how ridiculous it is, you have to remain the spotless hero."

It was completely obvious that Harry had not even considered it from that angle.

"But," he continued, "I do happen to think it might save some lives."

"But..."

"I didn't say I thought you should do it," Draco interrupted before Harry could start ranting again. "I don't think the idea is completely flawed, however. We need to consider our options."

"There are no options," Harry said, green eyes mutinous.

"Not as it stands, no," Draco agreed to appease his soulmate, "but I know of several Wizarding oaths that were timed. For example it was once common place for warriors to swear oaths of allegiance to the Lords with whom they fought for a year at a time. The Hecatemae oath was designed to be lifelong, but it might be possible to change it. If we could alter it so the parameters included a yearlong agreement would you consider it?"

For a moment Harry just looked at him. The little frown and twist to Harry's lips rather gave away Harry's uncertainty.

"That really might be possible?" Harry asked.

Draco nodded.

"I don't see why not," he said. "It might take Hermione and I a little while to work out the details, but rituals like the one we used are often open to alteration without damaging the intent."

Harry hugged himself and turned away, at least not rejecting the idea outright.

"But it will make them huge targets," Harry said eventually. "Voldemort will hate that anyone has dared give their loyalty to me."

"They already are targets." Draco was not about the shy away from the truth on this. "They already have given their loyalty to the light and to you. This will protect them from one aspect of the danger they are already in."

Harry scowled at that, but it quickly switched to worry.

"It will also give you a group of people you can implicitly trust," Draco added. "Nothing can circumvent this oath, not Imperio, not blackmail. Yes it's possible He might go after them and their families, but it's also possible he might leave their families alone because it's not worth the effort. The Death Eaters wasted a lot of resources trying to get to Hilde and one is in St Mungo's. In war it's foolish to waste too many resources on futile endeavours."

* * *

Of course Hermione and Draco had found a way to alter the oath spell so it was limited to one year without affecting it's efficacy, at which point Harry had run out of reasons to object. They'd even pre-registered the spell with the Hecatemae department in the Ministry so that there would be no surprises when the records of it having taken place were sent in. Hilde had said her colleagues were actually quite interested in its use with members of their department in the future.

The Transfiguration classroom felt crowded even though all of the desks were stacked to one side. And yet, on Harry's side of the room, he felt rather alone. Only Dumbledore stood behind him at a corner to the ritual. Snape was to his left with Hilde, opposite Draco, Professor McGonagall was on the far side of the room, and on the other side of the one desk left out were all those wishing to take the oath.

It was hard to believe this many people wanted to swear allegiance to him. There had been more, but it had been decided that it would be better for members of the Order not directly associated with Harry to remain in the shadows.

Those present were Ron and Hermione, no shock there, but Bill, Charlie, Fred and George were. Neville looked nervous, but resolute, as did Seamus and Dean. No one had bothered to ask how Dean had found out, everyone just assumed Seamus had told him when he had shown up out of the blue. Arthur and Molly were there as well, as were Sirius, Remus, Justin, Susan and Terry.

Of course the biggest shock looked equal parts resolute and unsure, depending on the given moment. Harry had known since Dumbledore had offered her a job that Pansy was on their side, but he had never realised she was willing to go this far. She had asked that her oath not be registered, for her family's sake, but she was still willing to take it.

"Are we all ready?" Draco asked and everyone nodded.

When Draco looked to him Harry held out his hand; he knew how this bit went. The pin was so sharp, that when it stabbed into his finger he barely felt it, however, having the blood flow increased by magic was not the most pleasant experience. The little bowl with the sage and moss was exactly the same as it had been last time with Hilde and his blood quickly soaked in. He tried to concentrate on the feel of Draco's magic to avoid dwelling on anything else.

"Witness the blood of the Liege Lord," Draco intoned.

"We witness," Dumbledore, Snape, Hilde and McGonagall replied.

Then, one by one all the others stepped forward to allow their blood to be dripped into the bowl. As Draco came to Pansy she almost hesitated, but Harry saw her resolve harden and she offered her hand.

"Witness the blood of the Vassals," Draco said, voice deep with concentration.

"We witness," the four on the outside responded again.

"Blood of the Lord, blood of the Vassals freely given," Draco said, bringing his wand so it hovered about the bow, "bound together now until one year and one day."

The Latin of the main spell was beautiful as it flowed from Draco's lips and the little shower of sparks was all but intoxicating. Harry stared at the blood soaked moss and sage burst into a beautiful blue flame and he felt the pulling on his magic as his awareness expanded.

Then everything went black.

"Harry, come on," someone was patting his face and his dopey mind finally cottoned on to the fact it was Draco.

He managed to open his eyes to find that he was lying on the floor with someone's robe under his head and Draco was leaning over him.

"Hey," Draco said, voice and features full of relief, "how are you feeling."

"Um," he said, "that was ... um ... wow."

There was a residual feeling in the back of his brain, similar to what he had felt after completing the oath ceremony with Hilde, but this felt bigger.

"I think he's fine," Draco said and Harry realised they were surrounded on all sides, but no one was too close.

Nothing sensible came into Harry's head as a comeback to that, so he kept his mouth shut.

"You look like a House Elf on Butterbeer, Mate," Ron said, less than helpfully.

Harry thought he probably felt like a House Elf on Butterbeer, if he was honest, but he didn't say so. Luckily Draco was there to deal with everything so he didn't have to.

"We should have expected this," Draco said; "Harry was a little dazed after performing the ceremony with Hilde, with so many more people, of course it's going to have an effect."

"Maybe we should have done it one at a time," Hermione observed.

"That would have taken days," Harry managed to say as Draco helped him sit up.

Even his words were slurred, he was never living this down.

"Well at least it wasn't me who fainted this time," Hilde said and smiled brightly at him.

Chapter Text

January was over and Harry was just about beginning to relax after the oath ceremony. So far there had been no more fallout than Harry spending an afternoon using mostly words of one syllable and staring off into space for no apparent reason. Everyone's oath had been registered except Pansy's and Voldemort had not even remotely made a move.

It was a crisp February evening and Harry had enjoyed his day of teaching, even if half the pupils in the great hall looked like they just wanted the week to be over. A familiar owl soared over to their table. Since Draco and his mother corresponded a lot, it was not unusual to see the Malfoy family owl making deliveries other than first thing in the morning.

Harry fed the beautiful eagle owl some meat from his plate while Draco untied the letter from his mother. The excited chatter of the evening meal surrounded him with familiar comfort and he grinned as Ron vehemently defended the Chudley Canons to Goyle.

As soon as the letter was free, the owl leapt back into the air and was gone. Harry was paying much more attention to Ron, since he liked to give Draco the illusion of privacy, when he felt the dagger of shock from his soulmate.

[What's wrong?] he asked without hesitating.

Draco did not reply and for a while simply stared at the letter. On the outside he looked as composed and focused as usual, but Harry could feel the turmoil going on beneath Draco's aristocratic exterior.

[Draco, you're worrying me.] Harry did not like the silence.

They were surrounded by their colleagues on the lower head table and he was doing his best not to make a scene, but when Draco went quiet, Harry always worried. He could still feel the underlying shock in his soulmate.

He gave a tight smile to Hermione who sent him a questioning look from across the table, and shook his head very slightly so she didn't say anything.

Then, finally, Draco moved, passing him the letter as if it was nothing. It was a good act, Harry might have believed it if he hadn't been inside Draco's head as well. Needing to know what had caused his soulmate to react in such a way he began to read.

"My dearest Draco," the letter began, "I have waited as long as I dare before putting quill to parchment, but now I feel it is time to tell you. Yesterday morning, Lucius awoke from his coma."

Harry stopped reading and glanced at Draco. His soulmate was talking to Pansy quietly as if everything was normal and Harry did his very best not to simply stare.

"I am more than aware this will not be good news for you, but there are several facts I believe you should know. The Dark Mark your father has had since he was your age is gone completely. According to the healers it finally disappeared the day before Lucius woke up. Although he is still very weak, Lucius is very much lucid. I have spoken to him at length yesterday and today. He claims to have no memory of recent events nor indeed anything he has ever done in service to the Dark Lord. In fact he does not appear to know who The Dark Lord is. I am sceptical, but I have asked the healers to perform tests. So far they can find nothing to refute Lucius' claims. The tests will continue.

"I will not burden you with details, my darling boy, for you have more than enough to worry about. Suffice to say, security has been increased and the Ministry have been informed. If anything significant comes to light I will send word. Until then, know that I love you, Mum."

[He woke up,] Harry said silently, because he needed to affirm what he had just read even if he couldn't say it out loud.

[Yes,] Draco replied.

[Do you believe this amnesia thing?]

[No.]

[Do you want to talk about it?]

[No.]

Harry folded the letter and placed it next to Draco's plate in as casual a manner as he could manage. There was no point pushing, not while they were in public, so he went back to his steak and ale pie. He wasn't exactly hungry anymore and he chewed absently as he thought through the possible consequences.

If Lucius really was amnesiac then it had to have been another effect of the magic Harry had sent back at the man. That the Dark Mark had completely disappeared before Lucius regained consciousness felt significant somehow, not that Harry knew why. He also wasn't sure how to feel about being the originator of magic that could wipe out a man's memory without having been aware he was doing it.

At least Narcissa was dealing with all the details. The last thing Harry wanted was Draco to be anywhere near his father, ever again if possible. That man was never going to be able to hurt Draco again, not on Harry's watch.

* * *

Harry remained silent about the letter and its contents until he and Draco made it back to their room. However, once the door was closed and the outside world was shut away, he couldn't just leave it any more.

"Talk to me," he said quietly, walking up to Draco and lightly placing his hand on his soulmate's back.

Draco was still, not moving and not speaking, so Harry gave him time. He could feel the turmoil bubbling away under Draco's skin and he waited for it to erupt. Eventually Draco turned towards him, face marred by a deep frown, eyes narrowed and full of too many emotions.

"Why can't he just die?" were the desperate words that cut straight to Harry's heart.

Without pausing, he gathered Draco into his arms and held on. Draco had been betrayed so completely by his father that all that remained of their relationship was hatred and fear, at least at the surface. Harry knew it ran deeper than that though. Draco might want the madman his father had become dead, but that was not all Lucius had been. Even Harry, who had only met the man a couple of times, had seen the changes in Lucius. The return of Voldemort had affected more than just his life.

"He's locked up in St Mungos," he whispered, "too weak to move and your Mum is keeping an eye on him. He's as good as in Azkaban, better, because your Mum won't just expect Dementors to do her part."

Silence greeted this affirmation, but Draco leaned into the embrace for long seconds.

"She'd kill him before she let him get away," Draco agreed eventually, pulling back.

"Not quite what I meant, but it'll do," Harry said as Draco valiantly tried to restore his usual calm and collected visage.

Harry had no doubt the idea of facing Voldemort alone would rattle Draco less than the memory of his own father. This wretched conflict had destroyed so much before the final battle was even on the horizon.

"And I will never leave you, Draco."

Of course Harry knew where the real trauma lay because he could feel it too. Taking Draco by the hand he stroked the ring he had made for his soulmate.

"He can never do that to us again."

To some such complete reliance on another person would have been a nightmare in itself, but to Harry it was the most natural thing in the world. He had been on his own through so much of his life that to know he never had to do that again was perfect. Hecatamae were not designed to be solitary creatures and sometimes he wondered how he had survived before Hogwarts.

"Never again," Draco agreed eventually, staring down at their joined hands.

After a little while Draco lifted his head and looked Harry directly in the eyes.

"Show me," he said, voice far less confident than it should have been, "and make me forget he exists."

"It would be my pleasure," Harry replied.

Moving closer, he leaned in and put the lightest of kisses on Draco's lips. Then he waited. Draco might have asked for this, might even have wanted it, but Harry was not about to rush. He needed to draw Draco out of his thoughts slowly or this wouldn't work anyway.

Their tableau held for a few quiet moments before Draco kissed back just as gently. Now Harry stepped that fraction closer again, bringing one hand up to cup the side of Draco's face as he continued to hold onto Draco's hand with the other. He kissed his soulmate again, a little bit more insistently this time. Draco leaned against him, shoulder to hip.

Harry stroked his fingers down the side of Draco's face, along that pale, aristocratic neck and round into the soft edges of Draco's hair, deepening the kiss as he did.

[I love you,] he whispered into Draco's mind, [I always will.]

Draco moaned quietly, parting his lips and Harry claimed his soulmate's mouth completely. For a while Harry let himself indulge in the kiss, enjoying the closeness and the simple touching. The centre of his universe was right there and he basked in Draco's presence. He had a plan, though, so he had to move on eventually.

He kissed away from Draco's mouth, along Draco's firm chin to the neck he had so recently been fondling. Placing tiny kiss after tiny kiss, he moved round until he was behind Draco and his fingers were resting lightly under his soulmate's chin rather than in Draco's hair.

Draco tipped his head to the side as Harry gently urged it and then he had room to lick a stripe up that beautiful, pale flesh. He nibbled lightly at Draco's ear lobe before kissing his way back down, a breathy moan was his reward. He knew every inch of Draco's body, had learned it by heart, but it never ceased to amaze him how many different ways there were to explore it. Sex was an adventure he would always enjoy.

The part of Draco's heart where he loved his father was broken. It had been cracked by Lucius' reaction to Draco's rejection of Voldemort and it had been shattered by Lucius' attempt to separate him and Harry. Harry aimed to patch over the wound with his own love and distract Draco from the turmoil of his thoughts.

Taking one shoulder of Draco's teaching robe in each hand, he eased it off his soulmate's shoulders, letting it fall and pool on the floor. As ever, Draco was impeccably turned out underneath, even after a full day of teaching. Where Harry always ended up covered in mud and grass stains, no matter what went on in the potions classroom, Draco never seemed to mess up his clothes.

Draco's jacket went next, discarded to the back of a chair. Since the teaching day had been over for a while, Draco had loosened his tie and undone his top button, so Harry took the opportunity to push aside Draco's collar and kiss more of the revealed flesh. He might have had a thing for Draco's neck that he couldn't fully explain and would never admit out loud, but since Draco seemed to love Harry's attention on that area of his body, Harry counted it as a win/win.

He moved his way back round to the front, allowing himself a few moments to look at Draco's closed eyes and relaxing features. The tension was not all gone yet, but it was beginning to ease.

Draco used what Harry considered a ridiculously complicated knot on his tie, but, although he could never create it, Harry had undoing it down to an art. As he slid the silk from under Draco's collar, Draco opened his eyes and stared at him with a gaze full of longing and need. Smiling just a little, Harry sent back his love in a warm wave. Draco closed his eyes again, taking a deep breath, lips parted.

Words were entirely unnecessary.

One by one Harry popped Draco's shirt buttons, letting his fingers linger on the skin this revealed as he worked his way down. Of course Draco was wearing a belt, but Harry was a master of releasing that as well. Trouser button and fly went next before he pulled Draco's shirt free from its confines and the last shirt button gave up its charge.

Sliding the very tips of his fingers over Draco's upper chest, he slipped them under the edges of the shirt, pushing is back and off Draco's shoulders. A very contented hum came back at him so he played for a while, digits dancing over Draco's upper body. It elicited such lovely little moans of pleasure from his soulmate.

Eventually, however, he wanted even more access and the shirt was still sitting just off Draco's shoulders. Pushing it down further he moved back in and claimed Draco's mouth in another kiss. Draco let him and responded in kind, lifting his arms to help with the removal of the shirt. That's when Harry hit a snag.

The shirt came off alright, but when he tried to pull it free it stopped. He looked down.

"Smooth, Potter, so very smooth."

He lifted his eyes back to Draco's face to find one eyebrow raised at him. In his enthusiasm he'd forgotten the cufflinks. Draco's shirt was stuck at the wrist. For a microsecond he considered being mortified, but then Draco's mouth twitched and Harry couldn't help it, he laughed.

Draco laughed as well and Harry leant it, pecking him on the lips while they were both still laughing.

"Guess I am not Casanova," he said.

It might not have been the smooth seduction Harry had been hoping for, but with the laughter the air in the room seemed much lighter.

"No, but I prefer Harry Potter any day," Draco replied, smiling at him fondly.

He lifted his hands, stuck in the inside-out sleeves.

"But if you wouldn't mind," Draco said, "I believe we were about to get to the good part."

Chuckling to himself, Harry set about freeing Draco from his predicament and planning just what he was going to do during 'the good part'.

Chapter Text

Fred and George were, without a doubt, two of the finest magical device makers on the face of the planet, Harry was sure. The package had come by owl Wednesday morning and after the school day was over Harry had immediately retreated to his and Draco's room to look it over. Unfortunately, Draco was stuck with a couple of his students, but Harry couldn't wait.

He emptied the parcel onto their desk. The contents looked like pretty nondescript metal discs with a W and a P monogrammed into the front, but Harry wasn't just looking with his eyes. Each one showed the intricate lattice of very complex spell-work; they were beautiful. There were twenty in all and a letter.

"Harry ole chum,

Here is the first batch, all ready for your little prank war. Once you cast your magic on them the charms will go into standby ready to be activated as requested. Then the joke will be on them ;).

Best wishes,

Fred and George

P.S. you only get one chance at your end so we packed extra."

Harry really, really wanted to share everything with Draco, but he knew he couldn't yet. They had agreed that they were keep their bond at the unconscious level when they could while the other was dealing with school work because neither of them wanted to distract the other at an important moment.

They were still acutely aware of each other and could open up at a moment's notice, but Harry did his very best to reign in his enthusiasm.

[Okay,] Draco's voice sounded dryly in his head, [I'm done, you can gush now.]

Clearly Harry had not being doing as good a job as he had hoped at keeping his exuberance to himself.

[Fred and George have outdone themselves,] he said. [The spell work on these is incredible. We owe them big time.]

[Show me.]

So Harry did. Draco could not see magic the way he could with his own eyes, but he loved to share his unique outlook with his soulmate.

[Looks like it's time to make some decisions then,] Draco said afterwards and Harry could only agree.

* * *

The discussion had gone something like:

"So how many Weasleys are going on this list?"

"For now just Ron and the twins."

"But they're as good as your family."

"And if we get a chance to do more, we'll add them, but for now just Ron and the twins."

"Which members of staff?"

"I think you're forgetting someone important first."

"Who?"

"Your mum."

"But she won't be involved in the defence of Hogwarts."

"No, she just happens to have become the Light's greatest ally among the previously grey purebloods. This could save her life."

Which was why Draco had invited his mother to tea the next Saturday afternoon. Their room was the second most secure location in Hogwarts after the headmaster's study, because Draco had made sure with Harry looking on, but heaven knew what privacy wards were on Dumbledore's domain from the dawn of time.

Draco had been very vague in his letter to his mother, but he had made sure she realised it was not just a casual invitation. Of course she had replied, playing the doting mother to the full. When she had first arrived they had even played at a normal family visit for a while, showing her around Hogwarts and where they were working etcetera etcetera. However now they had retired to the new staff wing.

"So, Darling," his mum said as soon as the door was shut and all the protections snapped into place, "what is it you wish to speak to me about?"

"This," Draco said and placed one of the Transferring devices on the coffee table; they really needed to come up with a proper name for them at some point. 'Transferring devices' sounded clunky, but 'Transferrers' had too many 'ers' for Draco's liking.

Narcissa picked up the small disc and turned it over in her hand. Of course she did not ask the obvious question, merely looking at Draco to request he go on.

"It will allow you to move from one place to another at will, even if there are anti-Apparition wards up," Draco said.

"Except the Ministry or Hogwarts at the moment," Harry added.

"We will need to teach you to use it, but it shouldn't take long," Draco continued.

"Anyone who can Apparate shouldn't have a problem," Harry finished.

Draco's mum examined the disc again.

"What have you boys been up to?" she asked, not even trying to hide how impressed she was.

"Well," Draco said and launched into the explanation of Harry's accidental discovery.

His mum was just like Draco in that she wanted to know all the details, which they were quite happy to provide. It took about half an hour to explain everything.

"Quite remarkable," was her conclusion when they had finished, and Draco couldn't help being a little proud of his mother's reaction. "I would be most gratified to learn this new technique."

The way Harry smiled said it all for Draco.

"Brilliant," Harry said. "We're planning a meeting for this evening, can you stay? If not we can work something else out."

"I will have to make a short call," she replied, "but I believe that is very possible."

"I'll make arrangements for dinner," Draco offered and stood up.

It was always best to warn the house elves about guests.

"Thank you, Darling," his mum said. "Oh, and Harry, I have something for you," she added as Draco turned away.

He turned back immediately at the tone of her voice. When his mum pulled a small folder from her handbag his heart fell.

"Thank you," Harry said, taking the folder as it was passed to him.

Draco knew what kind of thing it would contain and he also knew he couldn't get to it before Harry opened it.

"Oh," Harry said in delight.

Draco steeled himself and looked over Harry's shoulder. There, in what was a foldable leather photo frame, were two photos. One was a perfectly normal one of him as a small boy simply waving at the camera. It was the second one that was the problem. He clearly had not been aware of his mother taking the picture and he was standing on a box next to one of the kitchen tables, cheerfully mixing something in a bowl. More of whatever it was seemed to be on him and flying into the air than actually being mixed, however.

He was mortified.

"You were adorable," Harry said and Draco decided to go and die quietly in a corner.

"You are not putting that anywhere anyone else can see it," he said in his best no-nonsense tone.

"But it would look so nice on the bedside table," Harry said.

Draco began to calculate what spells his mother would have put on the frame against accidental damage and how he might be able to get round them to destroy the thing.

[I know what you're thinking,] Harry told him with a smile.

* * *

The Room of Requirement was locked up tighter than an octopus in a body bind and there were thirteen people inside: Harry and Draco; Ron, Hermione, Snape, McGonagall, Pansy, Hilde, Fred, George, Narcissa, Sirius and Remus. It was not the full group of people they hoped to teach their new technique to, but it was as many as Draco thought Harry could activate at one time. They had plans to expand later.

Some knew why they were there and others didn't, which was probably why Snape was looking somewhat annoyed. Dumbledore had been invited as well, but had politely declined, saying that he was too old to learn new tricks. Harry suspected it was more to do with the fact that Dumbledore had more up his sleeve than any of the rest of them anyway. He had no proof that Hogwarts let the Headmaster do things it wouldn't let anyone else do, but he had his suspicions.

"Good evening," Harry greeted once the protections fell into place, "thank you for coming and sorry for being so mysterious."

"I assume you have good reason, Gentlemen," Professor McGonagall said with a small smile.

"We do," Draco replied, inclining his head. "As some of you already know, during the summer Harry discovered something rather significant: a new way to travel distances without traversing the space in between."

"We call it Transferring," Harry added, "and we are keeping it a secret because, unlike Apparating, there are many places with no defences again it."

"Are you saying the Ministry and Hogwarts are defenceless against this new technique?" Snape all but demanded.

"No," Draco replied for them, "that's in hand, but at the moment the new protections can only be put up by Harry. We almost have a solution and there are some very discrete people from the Ministry working on it with us, but the point is moot at the moment, since there is no way for anyone without Harry's senses to Transfer."

"Unspeakables," Harry heard Hermione mutter, as ever, she was right.

Harry walked over and pulled the cloth off the table they had laid out to one side.

"At least not without one of these," he said.

"You have created devices that would allow anyone to enter and leave anywhere they wish regardless of security measures?" Snape sounded as if he thought that was the most foolish idea he had ever heard.

"Ah, but Professor," Draco said, "they only work when activated by Harry and the first time they are used they are keyed to a person's specific magical signature. They will only work for the person they were keyed to. We'd like to key one to each of you and teach all of you how to use them for emergency purposes."

Sirius was looking thoroughly impressed.

"When, by Merlin, did you have time to do all of this?" he asked, following Harry to the table to get a closer look.

"Heh, who needs sleep," Harry said with a grin.

"Apparently not anyone at Hogwarts," Draco said in a very put upon tone.

Of course Harry knew Draco was as focused on this as he was.

"We would like to teach all of you how to Transfer," he said, "for the moment, just for extreme emergencies."

"Specifically life and death emergencies," Draco added, "as you can all understand why keeping this advantage to ourselves could be very important."

Snape looked almost rebellious.

"And you think it wise that I have this information?" the man snapped.

"Actually, Professor," Harry said as plainly as he knew how, "it was you who came to mind first when life and death emergencies were mentioned."

"We don't plan to allow any of these out of Hogwarts for now, except one," Draco said before Snape could respond, "but we want all of you to know how to use one. Later on we hope to come up with a way to disguise them as well, but we're not sure about interfering with the magic. Fred and George helped us create these and Ron has been very helpful as our test subject and he's going to help us teach all of you, if you are willing."

No one objected.

"So how does it work?" Remus asked with his usual quiet intensity.

"It uses the same technique as Apparating," Draco said, "only a different route to the end result."

Then he looked at Harry with a small smile and Harry knew the rest of the explanation was up to him.

"Apparating blows a hole in reality," Harry said; "it's barbaric and I hate it and now Draco is going to laugh at my sensibilities."

"I would never," Draco said with mock innocence.

"Transferring uses the same method to change the person doing it into energy, move it and then change them back again, but it doesn't need the hole, it uses the connections between all things, the energy memory if you will," Harry explained. "These devices allow someone without my abilities to access the energy memory matrix. They activate with a spell and then you have to concentrate the same way you would when Apparating."

"Astonishing," Professor McGonagall said and Harry did his very best not to feel embarrassed at the praise.

Draco appeared to be enjoying every second, however.

"Thank you, Professor," Draco said.

"The part we helped..," Fred said.

"...sort out, is keying them..," George added.

"...to an individual person," Fred finished.

"When the device is first activated," Draco said, "the person's magic interacts with that of the device causing it to change. From then on only the person who used it originally will be able to use it again because the magic only works with their magical signature."

"Oh, like an encryption key," Hermione said.

"Exactly," George said. "Without the key..."

"...nothing makes sense," Fred said.

"Gentlemen," Professor McGonagall said, facing the twins, "if only you had remained to take your NEWTs I am sure you would have received top marks."

"Ah, but Professor," they both said, "we're only this good when we're fascinated."

"I think perhaps we have simply been underestimating your skills," Professor McGonagall replied. "We should have pushed you harder."

The twins just shrugged as one.

"Nothing you could have done..," Fred said.

"...about the Pink Terror, though," George finished.

Harry watched his ex-head of house close her eyes, count and relax; clearly she still had issues with Umbridge.

"Who would like to go first?" he asked and indicated the devices. "We have to do it one at a time because I have to activate the spell matrix."

"Sign me up," Sirius said and Harry grinned at his godfather.

This was going to be fun.

* * *

"So," Harry said, putting the box with the Travelling devices under their table, "what does the Wizarding world think of threesomes?"

Draco's impression of a startled goldfish was totally priceless.

"Is there something you're trying to tell me? Draco asked, voice heavy with sarcasm.

Harry laughed.

"Okay," he said, "I deserved that. No, but seriously, I know our world doesn't have the same same-sex taboos as the Muggles, but what about more complex relationships?"

"Why are you asking now?" Draco enquired.

"Because Remus came up to me while you were talking to Snape at the end of the session tonight and asked very quietly if we would consider adding Tonks to our study group," Harry said. "And at Christmas I saw some very weird interactions between the three of them."

Harry didn't need the little shot of surprise that came down their bond to know that Draco hadn't noticed a thing.

"Well, it's not completely unheard of," Draco said, sitting down on one of the chairs, "there have been polyamorous relationships, some quite famous ones, but they usually came together for magical compatibility or familial reasons."

"And what about the fact Sirius and Tonks are first cousins once removed?"

"Quite common in pureblood circles," Draco explained. "It's not unheard of for cousins to marry either, but that tends to be frowned upon even though it is legal. You really think Remus and Sirius and Nymphadora are together?"

Leaning against the table Harry gave a small shrug.

"I'm not sure they're actually together yet, or will get together, but I think there's definitely something there," Harry said. "I'm pretty sure Tonks and Remus kind of had a thing before we brought Sirius back, at least they were getting there. Remus asking me about adding Tonks to the group got me thinking. I was just wondering if it was the kind of thing that would be acceptable if they did ever act on what I saw."

"I don't think it would be a huge scandal," Draco decided after a few moments. "The gossip rags will probably talk about it because of who Sirius is, but most people won't take much notice. No doubt some circles would think it was the most romantic thing ever."

Harry laughed.

"Might take the spotlight off us for a while."

"Now there's a thought," Draco said, tapping his lip with his forefinger.

"No plots," Harry said and Draco smiled at him sweetly. "I mean it."

Draco smiled some more. Harry was almost sure his soulmate was just teasing ... almost.